Cross-cultural insights and questions from home and abroad


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

Hello, Hola, Salut, Olá ! 


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.


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!


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. 


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.





Ridesharing – Success in Europe… Why not in the U.S.???

Why commute alone and cover all gas expenses when other people are going your way and would be willing to contribute?


Have you heard about BlaBlaCar, Ridesharing and COLLABORATIVE CONSOMPTION?
Now in more than 15 countries BlaBlaCar is changing the way people think about travelling. Before car-lacking individuals were limited to travelling by bus, train, and plane… Now they can travel by car and make a friend in the process. Personally, as a Couchsurfer and Euro-traveller this idea immediately got my attention and I signed myself up.
This is a new community of people similarly to Couchsurfing based on trust. Yeah sure sometimes you get the occasional weirdo but quickly BlaBlaCar works to block these users in order to maintain the honest and genuine ride-sharing vibe.
What I’m wondering is why this concept is not catching on in the US???. It’s having real success in Europe and has even spread to Mexico, where like in America, there is a slight desconfianza (mistrust) towards strangers. But if websites like Wyzant tutoring and Lyft are able to build safe environnments why can’t a ride-sharing website do the same starting in one state then slowly moving to the next?

I, for one, truely believe this could work in the US... Especially in States like California where people are travelling very long distances on the daily. Trains are more expensive than driving and the state has enough honest people who are taking the same route to the point that this is really something to consider.

My best friend lives in San Jose and her boyfriend in the Sacramento area and she goes every other weekend to visit him. How many people are in long distance relationships like this and could really save some moolah on gas if they considered incorporating BlaBla into their lives. I’m sure there are also tons of daily commuters who travel from one same city to another for work. Who would like to use the carpool lane, reduce traffic, and save on gas.? We are talking about sharing expenses. This is an opportunity to opening up ourselves to other cultures or in general, new people. I think this idea could help improve American´s attitudes about strangers.

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French Baguettes, Macaroons, and the Skinny Frenchies!


“I eat a baguette a day and workout maybe once a week” 

This is what my skinny-ass French friend says to me when I ask him how much bread French people usually eat. He told me when he traveled to Asia it was so hard to get buy without eating bread everyday. After only about 2 months in Paris I managed to gain about 15 pounds and I just can’t seem to work it off. Does anyone else ponder how French people manage to stay so thin? I sure do. Yeah sure they walk a lot and go up and down stairs constantly, but I’m doing the same thing, what’s wrong with me?

France is a land filled with sweet temptations. I no doubt initially gained weight from adding extra sugar to my diet. It seems like everything here is sugary. At snack time there are so many sugary wonders available to you at all times; coffee with sugar, pain au chocolat, macaroons, yummy cookies and tartelettes. It is really difficult to find healthy snack foods in France.

Regardless of changing my diet to WAY LESS amounts of sugar and exercising about 3 times more than before I still haven’t managed to work of the extra weight. At least I am feeling more healthy and am more aware about the dangers of this French SUGARLAND!

Lesson and warning to travelers coming to France: DO NOT GIVE IN TO EVERY TEMPTATION IN PARIS. Pick and chose your goodies and travel WITH CAUTION.

How about you guys? – Anyone else have a similar experience that they’d like to share? What is the one delicious French dessert or sweet that you just cannot resist?