“With languages, you are at home anywhere.” ~Edward De Waal
In Portuguese, the word “saudade” is when you miss someone or something constantly, and not just in the moment. It´s possible to summarize the feeling in just one word: saudade. “Estou sentindo saudade de voce.”
Part of the fun when learning another language is discovering terms and words that don´t exist in your first language. I can only speak for comparing Spanish and English, however, words like “friolenta/o” (adjective) and “pochoclera” (noun) are a few of my favorites.
As the previous post gave an example of aboriginal girls always knowing which direction was which, it came back to their language which doesn´t use words like left or right and uses compass points instead. Germans have an expression for being alone in the woods “Waldeinsamkeit” simply because they have forests and have lived the experience; the term wouldn´t serve a culture who only knows the tropical rain forest. Our words are all subject to the culture from which we grew up, somehow. From a recent article in 9GAG, entitled “Untranslatable Words, shows a lot about different cultures,” eleven examples were given, each with a hint of culture associated with the term. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
*This is a fascinating article from the article of the same title by Alan Yu, from the health section of NPR.
Lera Boroditsky once did a simple experiment: She asked people to close their eyes and point southeast. A room of distinguished professors in the U.S. pointed in almost every possible direction, whereas 5-year-old Australian aboriginal girls always got it right.
She says the difference lies in language. Boroditsky, an associate professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego, says the Australian aboriginal language doesn’t use words like left or right. It uses compass points, so they say things like “that girl to the east of you is my sister.”
If you want to learn another language and become fluent, you may have to change the way you behave in small but sometimes significant ways, specifically how you sort things into categories and what you notice.
Researchers are starting to study how those changes happen, says Aneta Pavlenko, a professor of applied linguistics at Temple University. She studies bilingualism and is the author of an upcoming book on this work.
If people speaking different languages need to group or observe things differently, then bilinguals ought to switch focus depending on the language they use. That’s exactly the case, according to Pavlenko.
For example, she says English distinguishes between cups and glasses, but in Russian, the difference between chashka (cup) and stakan (glass) is based on shape, not material.
Based on her research, she started teaching future language teachers how to help their English-speaking students group things in Russian. If English-speaking students of Russian had to sort cups and glasses into different piles, then re-sort into chashka and stakan, they should sort them differently. She says language teachers could do activities like this with their students instead of just memorizing words.
“They feel generally that this acknowledges something that they’ve long expected, long wanted to do but didn’t know how,” Pavlenko says. “They felt that it moved them forward, away from teaching pronunciation and doing the ‘repeat after me’ activities.”
Pavlenko points to research showing that if you’re hungry, you’ll pay more attention to food-related stimuli, and she says speaking another language fluently works the same way.
One’s native language could also affect memory, says Pavlenko. She points to novelist Vladimir Nabokov, who was fully trilingual in English, French and Russian. She says Nabokov wrote three memoirs: He published one in English, and when another publishing house asked for one in Russian, he accepted, thinking he would simply translate his first memoir.
“When Nabokov started translating it into Russian, he recalled a lot of things that he did not remember when he was writing it in English, and so in essence it became a somewhat different book,” Pavlenko says. “It came out in Russian and he felt that in order to represent his childhood properly to his American readership, he had to produce a new version. So the version of Nabokov’s autobiography we know now is actually a third attempt, where he had to recall more things in Russian and then re-translate them from Russian back into English.”
Boroditsky also studied the differences in what research subjects remembered when using English, which doesn’t always note the intent of an action, and Spanish, which does. This can lead to differences in how people remember what they saw, potentially important in eyewitness testimony, she says.
John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University, acknowledges such differences but says they don’t really matter. The experiments “show that there are these tiny differentials that you can find that seem to correlate with what language you speak,” McWhorter says. “Nothing has ever demonstrated that your language makes you process life in a different way. It just doesn’t work.”
He calls this “the language hoax,” which happens to be the title of his upcoming book.
As an example, he refers to modern speakers of a Mayan language, who also use directions that roughly correspond to compass points, rather than left or right. Researchers asked people, most of whom only knew this language, to do tasks like memorizing how a ball moved through a maze, which would have been easier had they thought about it in terms of left and right, rather than compass points. The participants were just as good at these tasks and sometimes better,leading the experimenters to conclude they were not constrained by their language.
Boroditsky disagrees. She says the counterexamples simply prove language isn’t the only factor affecting what we notice. Like studying to be a pilot or doctor, she says, learning to speak a different language fluently can also change us, and this means we can learn those changes, like learning any other skill.
“It’s like a very extensive training program,” Boroditsky says. “There’s nothing exotic about the effects that language has on cognition. It’s just the same that any learning has on cognition.
A Yankee is someone from New England. It comes from the American Civil War times right? And it´s the baseball team that always wins? Well, yes and no, because Yankee is so much more than that. These would be a few common responses in the modern United States, but evidently Yankee can mean different things depending on where you are. According to “Writing Gooder” blog, a Yankee is the following:
A Yankee in Argentina (Yanqui) is what other countries call “gringos.” As the list above states, it is used to describe someone from the United States–anyone, and not just someone from the north. Pronounced something like ”Shunky” (and not to be confused with junkie), it is not used intentionally as a derogatory term, although it can happen and there are other alternatives that could be used in Spanish, such as “estadounidense” o “americano/a,” which will be mentioned in another blog post another time. Some Argentine friends and English teachers recently told me that they thought the word was used incorrectly in Buenos Aires, as a more targeted definition would be for Americans from the northern states. Knowing this, another Italian student recently asked me what a colleague from the US meant when she said she was a Yankee. I told him the same, but his colleague was making a reference more to her political views than where she was from. She was instead stating that she was not (a conservative Texan). The word is highly confusing, even for Americans! So where did it come from?
There are many theories about the origin of the word. Evidently in New England, the prevalent theory is that it originated among a group of Native Americans who pronounced the word “English” as “yengis” or “yengeese,” which later was Anglicized to “Yankees.” Linguists, however, have linked the word to Dutch origins, rather than being from Native American and English contact. During the colonization of North America, the areas which are now New York, New Jersey, and Delaware were inhabited by the Dutch, which is why New York was originally called New Amsterdam. The states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut were inhabited by the English. Naturally the two groups interacted often and eventually began to mix. There are three major arguments as to where the word Yankee came from based on this history.
1. Jan and Kees are common first names in the Dutch language, in use today and during colonization as well. The two names are sometimes combined into Jan Kees – this could have then developed into Yankee to describe English settlers moving into previously Dutch colonized areas.
2. The Dutch nickname Janneke (meaning “little John” or Johnny), would be Anglicized to Yankee, meaning converting it to a more English pronunciation and spelling in this case. This explanation believes that Yankee was used to describe Dutch-speaking American colonists, and by extension non-Dutch colonists.
3. The derogatory term John Cheese was often used to describe Dutch settlers, who were popular for their cheese production. The Dutch translation for John Cheese would be Jan Kaas; this could have also been Anglicized to Yankees and therefore be where the word originated.
The word Yankee has been very present during times of war. Even before the American Revolution, British soldiers used the term Yankee to mock American soldiers. It was combined with the word “Doodle”, which was a derogatory term that meant “fool” or “simpleton,” to create the song Yankee Doodle which today ironically is a symbol of American pride. I suppose that pride came from winning the war… Later on during the Civil War, the Yankees were the hated opponents of the Confederates. In World War I, the English began calling American soldiers, both Southerners and Northerners, Yankees, and it was then shortened to Yank and became popular in the United States. Yankee and Yank were again popular designations for the American soldier in World War II. The term Yanqui is used in some Latin America countries to describe US citizens, often—especially after the Cuban Revolution— with a note of hostility.
Yankee Doodle by Archibald Willard
So there you go. How many of you associated the Dutch with this term used worldwide with such rich historical significance? I certainly didn´t!
“Liebster” is German for many things, and among them “a welcome visitor,” (according to Word Reference) which makes sense for the award that Raelke nominated Language Lens for recently. Thank you by the way! The Liebster award is given to up and coming bloggers (I like that description) who have less than 200 followers.
The rules for the award are as follows:
So, my 11 Random Facts…
And my answers to the question Raelke asked…
11 questions for the nominated blogs…
11 blogs that I nominate
1. Excuse my Spanglish: Karo writes all her posts in both English and Spanish, which I find both interesting and admirable! I appreciate her efforts as it´s not an easy translation task,and it´s really great for those of us learning. http://excusemyspanglish.wordpress.com/
2. Private Spanish lessons in Buenos Aires: Sofie speaks about language, culture and activities in Buenos Aires in her blog. I find the language posts incredibly helpful as she speaks to the use of the language and how to speak more naturally, rather than relying on translating or what one learned in another country. http://sofiabohmer.wordpress.com/
3. Something for Sunday: Jacqui writes about life as an expat in Seoul, Korea. Not only does she write about culture and life abroad but she focuses on food, even giving recipes to things she tries and learns to master. She is an excellent writer, sure to please even if cooking and/or food isn´t your thing. http://somethingforsunday.wordpress.com/
4. Diary of a Language Coach: Amy and I have a few things in common, a love of Spanish and teaching. As a teacher and life-long learner, she blogs about tips and tools for learning/teaching Spanish and what she learns while teaching. Very helpful blog! http://languagecoach-diary.blogspot.com.
5. Language Evolution: How and why language varies and changes. I find this topic fascinating. Although the blog can be quite technical for the everyday reader, it´s a great source for learning about this linguistic phenomena. http://langevo.blogspot.com
6. En la punta de la lengua: Luis writes extremely interesting posts all relating to culture and linguistics, primarily in Mexico. The blog is predominantly in Spanish but also has English posts. Very thought provoking and professionally written. http://munduslingua.blogspot.com
7. Multilingual Mom: This multilingual mom is a franco-american mother of two girls, married to her Mexican Don Juan and is now living in Singapore (did you follow all of that?). She writes about multilingual aspects of bringing up children. http://multilingualmama.com/about/
8. Conversations with Japan: A unique way to write about Japanese culture, in the form of conversations with 2 people: Japan and me, as the name indicates. This blog is entertaining, educational, and very creative. http://conversationswithjapan.wordpress.com/
9. Like a Sponge. Marianne writes about her experiences living in Holland and speaking Dutch. I love the name of the blog as it is oh-so-true when living abroad and acquiring a new language. http://www.likeasponge.nl
10. Fuck Yeah my Language: This blog includes some interesting topics, again relating to linguistics, but I also include it on the list as it´s unique to others mentioned because of its format. Using tumblr, it includes a lot of videos, audio tracks and images in its posts, rather than solely words. http://fuckyeahmylanguage.tumblr.com/
11. UR Moving Where? Written by another expat in Argentina, this blog offers insights and tips for living abroad. What is unique about it is that it is written from the perspective of a family and not a single person, which is a whole other animal. http://urmovingwhere.com/
Questions for my nominated blogs:
1. If you had the money and time to go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?
2. Not considering professional benefits, what do you think is the value of studying another language?
3. Are you an introvert or extrovert?
4. What is your Zodiac sign?
5. What is your favorite English word and why?
6. Mac or PC and why?
7. Why do you write?
8. What do you think the world needs more of?
9. What is one of your personal goals for 2013?
10. What´s one of your favorite movies and why?
11. What is something you have always wanted to do?