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 asalinguist.com. 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

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On the other mano…

On Wednesday, I described some of the benefits of being bilingual, focusing mostly on possible cognitive advantages to growing up with two language. I believe in fairness, but even more than that, I do not think it’s possible to truly understand an issue without exploring it from as many sides as we can. So I set off to find some reasons why being bilingual may become a burden rather than a blessing to some. Continue reading

Pick a language, any language

There is a new women’s clothing store on the corner of 2nd Ave and 41st Street in Manhattan. Apart from the distressing orange and paisley strapless jumper displayed in the window, the thing that stood out about this store was its name: Dor L’Dor. Seeing the sign across the street all during brunch, we could not help but discuss the name. It was generally agreed that it was a dumb name that didn’t actually mean anything. The L’ gave the illusion of French, but then it should be Le Dor. But ‘dor’ isn’t a word in French, unless it’s d’or, which means ‘of gold’. Then at least it would D’or le D’or…which makes absolutely no sense.

But the word seemed very familiar to me and I was left with one of the odd situations that comes from knowing a word and what it means, but not remembering which language it belongs to. Didn’t it mean ‘difficult’? No, that’s zor in Turkish. I almost confused it for cor in Italian, which means ‘heart’. I stopped eating and adopted my thinking face so I could concentrate. I then tuned out all the laughter at seeing by my thinking face. Finally, it hit me. Continue reading