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Why LINGUISTS get ANNOYED when you ask what language they study…

Hello, Hola, Salut, Olá ! 

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What do Linguists study anyway???

Degelitos is back after a long WordPress break with some more interesting topics! Today I’m gonna try to break down in simple English what Linguistics is. Hope you got a minute.

Although it is very common for linguists to be bilingual, trilingual, or even polyglots, some or even many are actually monolingual. So today I am going to explain how it is possible for a linguist to be monolingual by explaining my version of the world of linguistics.

First of all, linguistics is an interdisciplinary field which cover all subjects that have a relation to “language”.

In English the word language poses some issues right from the start. Language can refer to the type of language used within a language (such as your native language) or it can refer to a foreign language/tongue (a second language). I think the biggest problem here is that most people think linguistics is only about foreign tongues, but let me tell you that is not the case. Linguists study language within a specific tongue (language) such as English, and/or they study linguistic phenomenons in foreign languages such as grammatical structures or dialects of Arabic. This is the first important point.

 

In other languages, like Spanish or French, there are two words to carefully distinguish one type of “language” from the other. In Spanish lengua means tongue (world language if you will) and lenguaje means language, like the type of language you use such as formal/informal. So when someone asks a linguist in Spanish what they study, one doesn’t necessarily assume foreign languages.

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Since there are different subfields of linguistics a linguist can specialize in different areas of the field such as psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, morphology, semantics, typology, phonetics, phonology, syntax, grammar, dialects, language acquisition (of a first, second, or third language), translation, interpretation, computational linguistics, animal communication, or even anthropology. You can also be interested in making up new languages and become a conlanger. Conlangers are the linguists who create fake languages for movies and video games. I’m sure I’m forgetting some… please feel free to comment.

I personally am interested more in sociolinguistics, dialectology, and phonetics. What does this mean? It means, my personal linguistic interests are related to language its role in society and particular sounds or phonological traits of a language or dialect.  How you and others speak has an effect on society even in a monolingual environment. Studying foreign languages is cool, but also studies different varieties (or dialects) of the same language can be cool too!

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Back to my point about how linguists can be monolingual… Imagine I was monolingual. I’m not, but I definitely do not speak Vietnamese for example. I do however, thanks to studying linguistics, understand some things about how the Vietnamese language works. I don’t assume every language has the same grammatical processes as my native language. In Vietnamese (correct me if I’m wrong) there are many ways to say hello, and they way you say it depends on who you’re talking to and the level of respect you want to show them. How do you say these hellos? I do not know, I learned and I forgot. Another interesting feature of Vietnamese is that it´s a tonal language which means you can have the same 1 syllable word, and the tone you put on it changes the meaning completely. My favorite example is how you say table and friend, to the English speaker these words might sound the same because our ears aren’t as sensitive to the tones. Bàn means table which has a descending tone (I believe) and bạn means friend and it has another tone. Keeping these things in mind help us understand the difficulties speakers might have in learning other languages with different typical features. 

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Anyway I hope that’s enough of an introduction for now. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COMMENT ON or CORRECT any mistakes I have here.

If you didn´t already know much about linguistics, I hope you learned something today. Also feel free to put in the comments any linguistic particularities that you find in your native language or a language you speak.

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Finding Balance at Home and Abroad: 10 Wise Tips

1. Have a few people that you talk to on a regular basis (even if you are kind of a lone wolf):

Communication is super important in order to maintain a healthy mental state. There should at least be 1 person in your life that you can tell anything to without being judged. Talking to another person on a regular basis not only helps keep you updated on each other’s lives, but it also helps you work out any personal issues. When keeping in contact with someone who knows you really well and for a substantial about of time you are able to vent and work out any possible current issues in your life.

2. If someone does something that makes you smile, or makes your day better, tell them:

072       Photo taken in Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain

Even if it’s something as insignificant as a Facebook post or an Instagram photo, tell that person it made you happy. If you let them know they contributed to your state of happiness, it will make them feel happy too. You might even make their day!

3. Eat well (even on vacation):

Its definitely OK to try local dishes and sweets! But you don’t need to have a crepe everyday during your 1-week visit to Paris. You should take advantage of the yummy delights where ever you are but it might be a good idea to put limits on your portions.

4. Exercise/ Just move your body! :

Each person has different limits to how much they can or should exercise so I will not give one solid solution for everyone.  I will say that, what ever you consider exercise for you, whether it be speed walking, running, dancing, yoga, or whatever, do it 3-6 times a week. This will help you sleep better, it will make you feel better (cause it gives you endorphins), and it will motivate you to manage your time wisely. Note for travelers: I’m not telling you to bring your running shoes with you on your 5-day vacation, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do a short workout in your hotel room or take a long walk (without stopping to eat/drink) in the place you are visiting.

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5. Don’t try to be a people-pleaser  (not even when traveling in groups):

It is impossible for one person to manage the moods and feelings of all those around them. We are humans and we all live individual unique lives. Different things inspire, motivate, and even irritate each individual. I know many of us can’t stand to let others down but sometimes things are just out of our control. If we put enough focus on our own physical and mental health, we will have more ease with others in general. Plus, on group trips not everyone in going to agree all the time. Think of alternative activities like spliting up temporarily, or having a precise meeting point and time to regroup!

6. Write things down:

Even if you are a person who rarely forgets things it might be an idea to keep an agenda or write yourself notes. I rarely forget an important date, but even I need to see things written down to give me a friendly reminders.

7. Don’t expect too much from others. Take the initiative:

Rely on yourself. I will explain this one with a personal example- My friend and I both wanted to go to a temporary exhibition in Paris. He wanted to go more than I did and told me at the beginning that it was only going to last 3 more weeks. A week later I asked him when it would be over and he told me 2 more weeks. We both got really busy and caught up with work but often still thought about going to the exhibition. Finally, no one brought it up until the exhibition was over, and of course, my friend was angry at me. He assumed I would tell him a fixed date to go, and I assumed he wasn’t to crazy about going any more. If something means a lot to you, communicate it. Assuming makes an ASS out of U and ME! 

8. If the weather is nice, get the ef outside dude: 

002  Photo taken in Madrid, Spain in front of  El Palacio Real

The weather has a huge influence on our moods. Even if we have HELLA work to do, we can prolly take 15 short minutes to just go outside, close our eyes, and soak up the sun. This is especially important if you live in a climate where the weather is generally depressing. Take advantage of the good weather for once!

9. If you need to cry, cry damnit:

Crying releases toxins. You ever get giggly after crying? I know I do! And some people need to cry more than others. Our bodies all work differently.

10. If you need a hug, ask somebody for one:

Chances are someone is willing to give you a hug! We are social creatures who need physical contact every once in a while. Maybe you don’t notice the affects of a hug right away, but if you hug more often it can have a positive long term affect on your mental health!

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