culturalrollercoaster

Cross-cultural insights and questions from home and abroad


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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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Sorry USA, but can I please go back to Europe?

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I prefer about the United States over other countries… but, living here just isn’t for me. I’ve spent over 4 years abroad and then I decided to come home. I’ve been in the U.S. for 2 months now and I can’t wait to leave again.

My American friends think I’m crazy. They ask me questions like; “Why wouldn’t you want more personal space? What, you don’t like driving?  I should have never left for Europe because it introduced me to a way of living that I feel is more healthy (for me). It’s harder to transition back to the U.S. once you feel you’ve gotten used to European life. In addition to the linguistic diversity and encouragement to learn foreign languages, there are other reasons why I feel better living in a European city.

DRIVING and PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

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I’ve never been big on driving. I realize that many many Europeans do drive on a daily basis, but the cool part is that in decent sized European cities, you do not have to own a car. It is not a necessity, but rather, a luxury. In the US if you didn’t grow up using public transportation, and everyone in your social circle drives, no one can help you figure out public transportation, and in most cases it’s not really safe. In the U.S. it’s convenient to have a car because there is plenty of parking and space on the street. The streets are wide here, and almost never do you see people walking to places to get things done. In Europe, having a car in a lot of cases can be almost a burden. In cities like Paris you have to pay a monthly car rental space, the streets are narrower, and in it can often take longer to get somewhere by can than by metro or train. I’ve never been a good driver, and in the U.S. the streets are full of angry, impatient drivers. In California, like in much of the United States, cities and towns were built for cars, so it is close to impossible to implement a better public transportation system.

LESS PERSONAL SPACE = LESS UNNECESSARY STUFF

And yes, in Europe, homes and apartments are generally smaller. In U.S. we have so much personal space, and I think that this encourages us to consume more. In Europe when shopping, you always ask yourself, do I have enough apace for what I want to buy. Many a times the answer is no, so you stop yourself from purchasing unnecessary goods. As I said there are advantages and disadvantages to both ways of living. I personally, just prefer to live a bit more simply and take public transportation most of the time.

MONEY and DISTANCE

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Another topic that bothers me, is money. Why are Americans so obsessed with talking about money? Everything is centered around money. Every social event involves spending all kinds of money. Every job is about how much you make. But I realize that there is a good reason for this: Living in the U.S. is crazy expensive. Everything has to be about money! It’s not really a free country… you can’t even get to the grocery store for free. The only really free thing you can do is take a walk to the park. If you want to go to the store on foot and you don’t live in a downtown area, GOOD LUCK! It will probably take you over 20 minutes just to get to a convenience store, and don’t buy anything too cold, cause it might be spoiled by the time you get home. In Europe I’d go to the supermarket more than once a week because it was ever so conveniently located, just a 2-5 minute walk from my apartment. And if I forgot something, big deal, I’ll just drop my groceries off at home and go back to the store at no transportation cost.

ADDED STRESS

And gas is not the only thing that Americans have to worry about, maintaining and insuring your vehicle is also not cheap.  I’m not saying we should rule out cars and driving altogether, I’m just saying that wouldn’t it be nice to have a choice – “Today do I want to go to work by car or by public transportation?” Think of it this way, you have less added stress when taking the metro. you are not responsible for anyone’s life. Yeah, maybe you’ll be late for work, but it’s the same story when you hit traffic.

LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY

In Europe you are encouraged to learn and practice foreign languages more than in the U.S. In Europe all the countries are pretty small, so average people are almost force to learn at least one other language. In the U.S. foreign languages are seen as hobbies or a cultural connection. In many countries in Europe, the use foreign languages is often regarded as essential to society’s functioning. Yes, for some it’s a hobby, but for many it’s crucial to know a foreign language. And remember, learning a foreign language can help you be more analytical. You brain thanks you when you succeed in speaking another language. You can see the world from more than one language perspective. This also decreases your chances of getting diseases like Alzheimer’s. In America we are too focused on looking at things from an English language perspective. But there are more ways to see the world. Speaking 2 or multiple languages helps you understand cultural differences and it allows you to be more patient in general.

CONCLUSION

As I mentioned before, these are my personal preferences. I don’t mean to offend anyone who prefers the American lifestyle, it’s just not for me. Nowhere is perfect! You cannot live for free anywhere. If these two different worlds could be fused together, we’d have a pretty awesome society. But for the time being they are separate and unique from each other in many ways.

Europe is cramped and service is slower but it forces you to enjoy the little things in life. America will always be a big part of me, but I want to continue to experience other culture’s realities. America is not the best country in the world. It a great country for many reasons, but it isn’t the only place where you can  live a happy-healthy life.


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A Visit to Rome, Italy- Likes and Dislikes

A lil upset because I already wrote all this out, then it deleted.  Oh well, c’est la vie. Now I’m gonna write a shorter version due to my laziness.

Rome is NOT what I had expected. I think I worked it up too much in my head. I had been planning to go there for over 5 years, so naturally I created this magical place in my head. Don’t get me wrong, I did like Rome. It was full of beautiful men and women and AMAZING GELATO, but it was missing something that I normally get while travelling.

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Here’s some things that might surprise you about Rome:

#1 Overall, the food ain’t that great.

On my very last day, I had some amazing risotto, but apart from that, the food was so-so or average. It’s hard to find decently priced good quality food in Rome’s restaurants and that’s probably due to having so many tourists. I think they spend more money making the restaurants look good then making the food good.

#2 Rome is kinda ugly.

Let’s face it, it’s badly kept. So in order to improve this situation, the city of Rome has decided to put everything under construction at the same time. This to me, frankly, makes it look worse. I’d rather see some things run down while others are being repaired, but all the major monuments were covered in scaffolding.

NOW FOR SOME POSITIVE SURPRISES!

#3 Piazza di Spagna was my favorite place.

Although there was still a bit of construction there, this had to be the most pleasant place for me. They Spanish Steps are a great place to relax and enjoy the crowd. The shops nearby are delightful, especially this one Gelato place that for me, had the best Gelato in town: GelateriaVenchi. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d2260557-Reviews-Gelateria_Venchi-Rome_Lazio.html

#4 Every Gelato place is unique.

You think you’d get repeats eating gelato everywhere you go in Rome but no, it’s not true. Each gelateria has unique styles of ice cream and different flavors! I recommend having some gelato at least once per day each day that yo visit Rome.

#5 There’s so many Filipino-Italians!

I don’t know when Filipinos began immigrating to Rome, but currently there is a huge Filipino community. You can find lots of Filipino owned businesses in Rome which for tourists means you can find excellent service in English. The Philippines used to be a Spanish colony, then it was part of the U.S. for a short while which has resulted in it becoming one of the most linguistically capable countries in the world. So if you’re too shy to try to speak Italian, you’ll have no problem finding a Filipino-Italian that can assist you in English or maybe even in Spanish.

#6 The speakers in the Vatican are made to look like marble, COOL.

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# 7 Anytime a pretty girl orders food, the server will tell her: “only for you”.

Everyone says that. It must seriously be a thing. It happened to my friend and I in every restaurant without fail. They like to make you smile or giggle, probably to make you think you are getting a good deal. It worked the first day for me, then it just got annoying lol.

# 8 Rome doesn’t feel dangerous.

If you’re worried, I wouldn’t worry too much. It’s like most European cities, you just need to be the normal amount of cautious.

# 9 Religious souvenirs are cheaper at the Vatican.

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When you go up the Dome in the Vatican there’s a gift shop. Surprisingly this gift shop is actually cheaper than most of those stands you’ll see outside the Vatican area. So if you do want to buy something at one of the stands, make sure you negotiate the price with them before buying. Tell them that you saw the same thing cheaper in the Vatican.

# 1o There are colonies of cats that live in the ruins.

You’ll know what I mean when you see them.

 

 


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What happened to sincerity?

Do you ever feel like you can’t find sincere, genuine connections with people anymore? Is it a cultural thing? Are we being socialized to act this way?

Recently, I have been going through a period where I just can’t seem to find genuine connections with the opposite sex. I am an American living in Europe. Could this be something cultural or is it simply coincidence? Are we being socialized to be more superficial than in the past?