It’s time for another Friday Word of the Week. I started this topic to help myself learn more words and to give myself motivation to expand my reading and put more challenging authors into my reading circulation (Hello, Nabakov!). I also found that the intense focus on a word helped me truly learn it in a more complete way than simply looking it up and trying to remember it.
In this journey so far, short as it’s been, I’ve learned some brand new words and explored the origins of familiar words. There’s a third kind, however, that needs to be included as well: words that I recognize and should know, but whose definition, for some reason, escapes me. These are the words that prompt me, when I see them, to think, “Oh, I know that word. It means…um…uh…oh yeah, it’s about…Okay, fine, fine! I’ll look it up. Crap.” I trot off to consult a dictionary. What usually happens next is a sharp slap to the forehead and an exclamation of “Well, duh!” And then comes the forgetting. Lather, rinse, repeat. Several times. Continue reading →
The weather is getting warmer and more humid around here, and the colors outside have shifted from countless shades of pale, delicate green into the lush deep greens of the approaching summer. I’ve finally managed to convince myself that my teaching work really is completed for the next two months or so, and this enables me to really sink into the activities I wish I could do all the time, without the distractions of that pesky task of making a living.
Summer is not my favorite season, but it sure can be pretty to look at.
I dusted off my bike and took it out for a long inaugural ride. My closets and file cabinets are getting shorn of unnecessary bulk. My car has been freshly washed and waxed and I’d swear she now preens her way down the highway. I have plans to build some simple, sleek shelves to replace a bulky barrister cabinet that is taking up too much room in my tiny home office. And I will break out the brushes, and bright yellow paint to bring new life to my living room. Continue reading →
I have spent my life around different languages. At home, though I heard mostly English, there was plenty of Portuguese being thrown around, especially when my parents were talking about us. When I wasn’t at home, I was usually found at my best friend’s house, whose parents were francophone Quebecois. Another friend down the road lived with her Ukranian grandparents. I befriended the foreign students, starting with the little Italian girl who started school with us in 2nd grade. After all this, it should come as no surprise that I have spent the last 20 years focusing my attention on languages and linguistics.
When my oldest sisters started school, they spoke almost no English. After some time of watching her children become confused by hearing English at school and Portuguese at home, my mother decided that the best thing for the family would be to switch the home language to English. She did not want her children to have difficulty at school, and believed that dealing with two languages would only serve as a distraction and source of confusion for them. She wanted to make it easier to navigate this new culture and society she and my father had chosen to live in. As a result, I was born into a family that had made the transition almost completely into English, with the exception of certain kitchen commands, food terms, random traditional expressions, and ‘colorful’ phrases one would say when very angry at a small girl who has just broken the sugar bowl.
I get a bit enthusiastic about the dictionaries.
As a teenager and adult, I’ve had moderate success with second languages, but I longed for the same ease in another language as I have in English. I listen enviously to all the people I know who were lucky enough to have been brought up bilingual, and I wondered what prompted my mother – and many like her – to believe that maintaining her native language at home while her children learned English in school would have been a mistake. Continue reading →