For #100: Portrait of a polyglot.

Today is my 100th post.

I started my blog in June 2009 but I only paid sporadic attention to it until February 2011 when I really started writing. Slowly but surely, the total number of posts crept up until I found myself with just a handful to go before I hit 100.  I wanted to do something special.

The first thing I did was to make an honest blogger out of myself: I lopped off the ‘wordpress’ from my web address and officially became Huzzah!

Papa and me, dancing at my brother's wedding.

The second thing I did was to decide what to write about. I’ve mentioned my father previously, (here and here) which may make one conclude that I was somewhat of a Daddy’s girl. It’s a fair assessment. I am the youngest of five children – four sisters and one brother – and while my brother retains the title of Most Pampered (the only son of Portuguese parents), I came in a close second. Not only had my four older siblings broken my parents in for me, but my father was already 54 when I was born. Nice and mellow … no, not mellow. My father, Pedro, was stubborn, curious, mischievous, short-tempered, even laid-back about certain things, but not mellow. Still, his age must have softened him a bit, made it easier for him to be a little more playful and lenient with me than he’d been with my older sisters.

My status as a Daddy’s girl notwithstanding, I also chose to write about him because I write about language and he was a polyglot. Growing up with two parents who didn’t speak English natively certainly had an influence, but my mother’s English was so much more fluent and accurate that we sometimes forgot that she had to learn it as an adult. My father, however, learned it later and never as completely as my mother, and his other languages always played a larger role in his communication, and thus, his identity. I can’t write about language without addressing this early, critical influence in my life. Continue reading

Second Languages, Part Deux

Here’s where we left off in ‘le premier part’:

My other studies led me to brief forays in Italian, German, Latin, and soon, Arabic. Throughout it all, I wondered how it was changing me, this constant attention to other languages. Okay, I’ll occasionally throw in a Turkish hedging technique (şey, yani) and I apparently believe that lights and computers are now open or closed rather than on or off, but apart from that, did my relationship to English or thought change?

The languages I’ve studied had strange new rules, fun pronunciation, and interesting idioms…but what did that all get me? What did I gain beyond the practical issues of eating, drinking, or buying souvenirs while on vacation? Did these languages add anything more significant to my life, even if I’m not using them on a regular basis? What can I take away that will increase my understanding not only of myself, but of all of us? Continue reading

One more time! Second Languages, le premier part…

Though I’m technically still on summer break from teaching duties, it’s definitely time to start gearing up for the semester and plan my courses. However, I’ve been having a hard time transitioning my ‘summer brain’ back into activity, and so I decided to throw down a gauntlet at my own feet.

They are completely ignoring my gauntlet! What's so interesting about a camera strap, anyway?

This is a post that I originally published on 26 January 2010. It’s a piece about how learning other languages may or may not have influenced the way I think. As I was writing, I realized that it was growing beyond the confines of a single post, so I published when I’d gotten to what felt like a natural stopping point. I finished relating my experiences with languages and left off when I started exploring the question of their influence on my thought.

As you can see, that was a year-and-a-half ago. The second part of this post has been languishing as I was researching and getting distracted by the thousand other topics I’d love to write about, not to mention being occupied with teaching and, you know, general living. This then will be the challenge I give to myself this week: finish Part Deux!

So here’s ‘le premier part’ once more to get things rolling (I’ve made a few minor edits and added some pictures.) And then, finally, we’ll get to the long overdue sequel by the end of this week. Hopefully after meeting this challenge, the mental transition will be complete and I will have awakened my brain from its estival hibernation. Continue reading