Unit 5 - Hunting fake news through critical reading

Activity 1: Text analysis and multilingual competence

Estimated time: 80 minutes

Learning Objectives

  • Develop a critical attitude towards the text by:
    • questioning the content of the article;
    • analysing the persuasive strategies employed;
    • inferring the purpose for which the text has been written.
  • Improve your multilingual competence.

Resources needed

  • Internet connection.

Exercise 1: A fake news item about the weather

Open the text at the following link. It is a text about a weather event in the United States.

Tip: If you have difficulty understanding the text, you can use a translating tool such as https://www.deepl.com/translator

When you have finished, answer the following questions:

What do you think is the purpose of this article?
Can you identify some of the elements that help you detect this is a piece of fake news?

You may have taken note of several phrases that include exaggerated language (e.g. “there is a 99% chance…” or “you could see 50 times the amount of snow…”) which are a sign that the news may be fake. Other features include made-up names (if you search for Dr. Scvediok or Edward F. Blankenbaker, you will not find anybody with that name who has a senior position in any institution), vague professional categories (“a doctor of global weather sciences”, “Senior Administrator of Meteorologists”) etc., which are indicators that the news has been invented.

Exercise 2: Hunting for other fake news

Now look for one or more articles similar to “Meteorologists Predict Record-Shattering Snowfall Coming Soon” in another language (it may be your first language as well as a second language) about impending natural disasters. In the box below, share the article and your reflections for the benefit of the other teachers using this platform. You may want to use the following questions as a starting point:

Provide the title, URL and the language of the text.
In your opinion, what’s the purpose of the article you found? Is it the same as the one in Exercise 1?
What fake news is it reporting? How were you able to identify the news as fake?
What aspects does your article have in common with the text provided above? And how does it differ?

Exercise 3: Identifying fake news in other languages

M5-A1-E3

Let’s turn to new items in languages that are less familiar to us. Although it might seem difficult to understand a text written in another language (especially if you have never studied it), read carefully what the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR) (coe.int) (2020) suggests about Plurilingual Comprehension.

[Learners]:

“Can use what they have understood in one language to understand the topic and main message of a text in another language”.

“Can deduce the message of a text by exploiting what they have understood from texts on the same theme in different languages (e.g. news in brief, museum brochures, online reviews)”.

“Can recognise similarities and contrasts between the way concepts are expressed in different languages […]”.

“Can use parallel translations of texts (e.g. magazine articles, stories, passages from novels) to develop comprehension in different languages”.

 

Now let’s try to put these suggestions into practice.

Below you will find two short extracts of two articles, one written in Portuguese and one in German. Read them carefully and analyse the words that you think you understand (there may be words that sound similar in your first language or in another language you master). Then try to deduce the overall message of the texts and choose the correct answer.

 

Extract 1 (Portuguese)
“Este método de 30 dias de aprendizagem automática de línguas fará com que as escolas de língua cai. […] Chocante efeitos 30 dias o método de aprendizagem de línguas”.

Source: https://bestdailyscience.com/wp/pt/gp1/lingua-estrangeira-em-menos-de-30-dias/?utm_source=zemanta&utm_medium=maxcpc&utm=

Quiz

What is the main information given in this short extract?
  • You have 30 days to register for free at a language school
  • There is a new method of learning a foreign language in 30 days
  • A language school offers a 30-day intensive course
Your result:
  • Correct answers:
  • Wrong answers:
Reset Quiz

Extract 2 (German)

“Regierung hofft auf 12 Millionen bis 2060 […] Bis zum Jahr 2060 sollen so 12 Millionen Migranten nach Deutschland kommen, was für das Innenministerium, welches das Papier verfasst hat, eine erfreuliche Entwicklung ist […]”.

Source: „Merkel hofft auf 12 Millionen Einwanderer“ (wochenblick.at)

Quiz

What is the main information given in this short extract?
  • By 2060 there will be a large number of immigrants in Germany
  • In Germany, Law n.2060 of the Ministry of the Interior has been passed
  • In 2060 millions of Germans will emigrate
Your result:
  • Correct answers:
  • Wrong answers:
Reset Quiz

Now that you know the overall message of the two extracts provided, try to identify some of the elements that help you detect these are fake news.

TIP:  If you need to translate the texts, you can use a translating tool such as https://www.deepl.com/translator.

Focus in particular on the following sentences:

Extract 1: “Chocante efeitos 30 dias o método de aprendizagem de línguas”.

Extract 2: “Regierung hofft auf 12 Millionen bis 2060 […] Bis zum Jahr 2060 sollen so 12 Millionen Migranten nach Deutschland kommen”.

N.B. Useful tip for the textual analysis of the German fake news: the German verb „hofft“ means „to hope“.

By analysing some of the expressions used, you might infer the overall meaning of the sentences and find linguistic features which indicate that the news has been made up.

Extract 1: “Chocante efeitos 30 dias o método de aprendizagem de línguas”

Here you might easily understand the meaning of the Portuguese adjective “chocante” because it sounds very similar to its English translation “shocking” and it is identical to the Spanish word with the same meaning “chocante”. This extreme adjective exaggerates the effects of the learning method, which is a clear sign that the news may be fake. Moreover the figure is unrealistic. In fact, the potential of the learning method is overestimated, as it is quite impossible to learn a foreign language in only 30 days.

Extract 2: “Regierung hofft auf 12 Millionen bis 2060 […] Bis zum Jahr 2060 sollen so 12 Millionen Migranten nach Deutschland kommen

Here you can notice that the word “Migranten” is very similar to the English “migrants”, just as the German verb “kommen” is similar to its English translation “to come”. Moreover, the German name for “Germany” (“Deutschland”) may be part of your plurilingual repertoire, even if you have never studied German.

This extract requires a different analysis from the Portuguese fake news. In fact, while you can deduce that the Portuguese article contains false information by analysing it linguistically, in this case you need to use your background knowledge: while it is likely that by 2060 there will be a large number of immigrants in Germany, it is highly unlikely that the Government and the Chancellor would actually express their hope for such a flow of immigrants.

Activity completed!

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