When Language Doesn’t Cut It

I am at a loss for words.  What do you say when no words will suffice.  I am simply,__________.

 

Life, Without Words: Photo Courtesy of D.L Ennis Photography

Life, Without Words: Photo Courtesy of D.L Ennis Photography

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The Fundamentals: Accents & Mumbling

Cherry Blossoms of Spring

Cherry Blossoms of Spring

It was nice outside last Saturday so we headed outside to the park where we were joined by several other foreigners who were enjoying the weather beside a group of elderly and somewhat intoxicated Korean men playing Yoot… a typical spring Saturday in Seoul.   There were foreigners from the United States, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, England, Mongolia, and Australia and we were all conversing in our native tongue: English.  Thinking back, what to an unknowing passerby (especially to a non English-speaking gentleman or lady) would seem like a gathering of identical English speakers, had turned into quite an eclectic group of expats.  Each of us, besides sharing the same language, were from completely different parts of the globe, brought up immersed in entirely distinct cultures… and yet we were conversing as neighbors that have known only one town would.

We talked about all things without pause.  There was no need to clarify meaning because we all understood each other perfectly well!  South Africa, New Zealand, England, United States, every hemisphere connected in a peaceful web of total connection in language.  Of course this makes one wonder about the wars have been caused simply by discrepancies in language and whether or not a single world language would really be a loss to humanity.  However, what has been on my mind for the last couple days was an exchange between myself and an Englishman.  As Spanish from Spain is to a Chilean, so too is English from England to an American: seasoned and distinguished-sounding, ancient and beautiful.   Continue reading

Top 10 Ways NOT to Start Learning a New Language

In an effort to assist any learner of any language get started in their exploration of said language, here is a list of the top 10 ways not to go about beginning your studies.   This list has been formed out of 10 ways that I tried to learn new languages but then failed epically.  May you not make the same mistakes that I did.

Easy Language?

Easy Language?

10) Easy Phrase Books. Unless you intend to kill your desire to learn any language right from the start, I suggest you steer clear of such books as these.  Books that offer 101 easy phrases in ____________ (insert language here) are sure ways to get frustrated and give up.  The content is often scattered and colloquial, filled with phrases that are at a level far beyond that of the beginner or even intermediate learner.  I have picked up books in Japanese and even Spanish and been befuddled as to the content.  Oftentimes, such everyday phrases are so wrapped in complex grammar structures and vernacular that there is no way that any learner could actually learn any of the individual parts.  For example, in Spanish

Could you speak more slowly? Puedes hablar más despacio, por favor?

If you speak Spanish already, you don’t count.  Please take a minute to imagine yourself completely incapable of any expression in Spanish, and your pronunciation is horrible.  How can you be expected to learn anything (as a beginner) from such a phrase?  The book this was from has no explanation on what any of the words mean, nor is there an explanation on conjugation of verbs etc.  It is a dead-end for language learning.


Language Absorbtion

Language Absorbtion

9) Repetitive Drama/Cartoon Viewing. I once had a friend who, in his attempt to learn Japanese, watched anime…a lot of anime.  In fact, he had so convinced himself that he could learn Japanese simply by listening and absorbing the language that he watched over 100 episodes of Naruto or One Piece before he decided to call it quits.  What was his result?  Very basic listening skills at best, and right next to zero comprehension when it came to grammar and building his own unique sentences.  Though, admittedly, his vocabulary was okay (unfortunately limited to such phrases as found in cartoons, however.) Continue reading

“Words Do Inspire”

It should come as not surprise that these were the words spoken by a great public speaker: “Words Do Inspire.” Words, as I mentioned in a previous post, are an inexhaustible resource.  They can be used and reused countless times in countless many ways and never get old from overuse.  Words like “I”, “the”, “as”, and the like are even less like inexhaustible and more like eternal.  Yet, the question today regards what exactly it is that makes a word truly inspiring.  Is it the context or can a word on its own, regardless of context, be innately inspiring?    Similarly, if a phrase is inspiring then where does the inspiration lie within that phrase?  I hope we can look at some of the greatest orators of our time and procure our own answers to these questions.

Can You Pick the Single Point of Inspiration?
Can You Pick the Single Point of Inspiration?

By this point, surely you, the reader, have already begun to form words in your head that are inspiring to you in particular.  These words may include but not be limited to examples such as “Glory”, “Endurance”, “Champion”, “Best”, “Teamwork”, or “Victory” which all invoke a sports-like feeling, recalling images of the Olympics or the World Cup.  Others of you may conjure up words such as “Positivity”, “Patience”, “Honesty”, “Happiness”, or “Smile”, of which all concern your own personality rather than a distant goal.  Still other readers may be thinking now of words like “God”, “Heaven”, or “Blessed” which are clearly more spiritual in nature and thus draw inspiration from beyond—rather than from within—oneself.  Each person is unique. Continue reading

Teaching vs. Playing: Classroom Techniques

Everyone is a Teacher, Student.

Everyone is a Teacher, Student.

Several weeks ago I was informed quite to my pleasure that amongst all the teachers and all the classes at my middle school, I had been voted (by the students) as the favorite.  I was, of course, flattered by their kind words and humbled to be so warmly welcomed in such a short amount of time but I could not help but wonder why it was that I was chosen and whether or not it was actually desirable to be so.

Given, there is not much more rewarding and motivating as praise from your peers for your good work.  To me, the worthy and sincere congratulations and appreciation from others is better and more self-satisfying than my paycheck–especially on those sour Mondays or long Wednesdays.  Yet this was something different.  I was not chosen by my peers as the best teacher in Sindorim Middle school, I was chosen by the students.

In college I remember one such professor that all the students admired (and still do) who was formally known as Professor Ackerman (though he preferred to be called simply by his first name) who won similar recognition from us students when I was a senior.  All of the students adored him!  We were positively enthralled to see him anywhere on campus, he was always volunteering and participating in student-let activities, in the classroom he always maintained a high energy level and even managed to remember every single student by name (and he had quite a few students!) Yet, when it comes to what I learned in class I will admit, and not a bit proudly, that my reports and final marks were quite mediocre.  Despite his enthusiasm and personable character, I found it easier to be his buddy so to speak and talk with him as such rather than as a professor.

Then what is the objective of being a teacher? Continue reading

¿Que? My Spanish Improved In Japan?

Studying Abroad: Japan
Studying Abroad: Japan

In college I had the most amazing privilege of studying abroad and it was very definitely a life-changing experience.  In fact, I say now to anyone who is in college: “Do not hesitate for a moment to study abroad and do not let a  language barrier deter you from selecting the location you desire to visit most.”  Ultimately though, the purpose of such a trip ought to be language exploration and eventual acquisition.  As for me, the experience was in Japan.  Nagoya, Japan to be a bit more descriptive and it was during my time there, throughout all the lessons, meals with my host family, and interaction with the locals that not only my Japanese took root but–and quite unconsciously–my Spanish did grow.

It makes no sense…at first.

Language is a peculiar thing: Every word counts, rings, roars with its own ferocity and gentle grace; Grammar and how you use it plays a major role in the overall sound and feel of your writing; and finally, pronunciation tunes your ears and mouth into fine instruments of correct communication.

Language learning is a peculiar thing: As you learn one language you are reminded of others.  One word vibrates some chord that you recognize from deep in your language library…but it’s a different language;  grammar in one language builds off of previous grammar…but from a different language; and the words on your tongue dance in magical tunes all to familiar but completely foreign at the same time.

Why? Continue reading

내 국제상의 다국어 여자 친구 Mi Internacional Políglota Polola 私の国際的で多言語の彼女 My Internacional Polyglot Girlfriend

Compared to most of my other entries, this will come off as more of an Op-Ed piece.

I speak several languages and understand several more.  On top of that, I pride myself on being able to distinguish and identify many languages almost immediately (both upon hearing them spoken or seeing them written).  It is a strange kind of pride to many, I am sure, but as strange as it is to be a single polyglot (at least that is what I strive to be) the experience becomes ever-stranger when I interact with my quite gifted—and quite adorable if I might add—polyglot girlfriend. Continue reading