Tuesday. 12.16.08 10:02 pm
I'm a thoughtful sort of person. I like to think things over before coming to a conclusion. I am not loud or persuasive.
But China changed me.
I had been living in China for three years and felt comfortable in the language and culture. I have also lived in Japan, France and Canada for a long time and I realized how I somehow change personalities when I switch speaking languages. I notice when I speak English I may sound like any other English Canadian but I know deep down that I am not English nor Canadian, English is just a neutral language of business with lack of stimulus, culture or emotion. French spoken in France I find is very “clean” unlike Quebecois, which has more tone, more activity to it accesses a more passionate side, similar to other Japanese dialects and Chinese languages. A summer in Quebec, even when I speak the southern Japanese dialect I feel livelier than when I speak the regular Tokyo Japanese.
The existence of my aggressive side fully hit me one day in southwest China. I was looking for a luggage carrier, at one of the major outdoor markets. When the store owner quoted me the fare, I was incredulous: it sounded far too high. I spoke out in Chinese that no way I was going to pay that price. I halved the fare and paid the shop owner, insisting that was more than enough. I would never think of doing this when I speak Japanese or English or French.
Where language meets personality
I've always been fascinated by the intersection of language and personality. With the experience of my own split linguistic personalities, I was especially intrigued by a recent study that shows people who live in two cultures may unconsciously change their personality, or identity, when they switch languages.
According to researcher David Luna at Baruch College at the City University of New York, identity has traditionally been thought of as stable. But research in the past decade shows that identity is fluid, changing with the context.
People do shift between different interpretations of same events, but the study shows that bicultural people do it more readily. Language seems to be the switch.
This makes sense to me. When I speak Japanese, Chinese, French or English, I feel like I was split into four different people. Four containers, or bottles if you will, represented my different personalities.
Depending on the topic I find it difficult to express myself in one language but easier in another. What comes naturally in Japanese does not come naturally in English. There are topics that I cannot explain in English that need the help of Japanese or Chinese. Of course three years ago my Chinese personality was empty but as I gradually gained vocabulary and an ear for Chinese, the bottle filled up. It was when I achieved a sense of humor and dreaming in Chinese that I felt the bottle was finally full.
Chinese was the first language I learned after 16 years old and I felt different, life did not feel the same I would feel like I was speaking another language when I know the person I was speaking to did not understand any other language. I felt different when I spoke Chinese: more joie de vivre, an ability to savor the daily pleasures in life.
Our authentic self
"Language is one of the most powerful cues to activate a culturally specific way of doing things, thereby activating a different identity," says researcher Luna, who is originally from Spain.
His study showed Hispanic women interpreted the same advertisement differently, depending on whether it was in Spanish or in English. They viewed the woman in the Spanish ad as more independent and assertive than the same woman in the English ad.
So why do people tap into different identities when they switch language and culture?
It seems one language and culture can speak more to our authentic self than another. Take the Hispanic women in the study. The researchers note that, in Hispanic culture, women are becoming more independent and assertive, fighting for equal rights. It stands to reason the Hispanic women saw the actress in the Spanish ad as self-sufficient and extroverted.
Conversely, the Hispanic women saw the actress in English as less independent and lonely, reflecting an Anglo culture the researchers cite as becoming more traditional. So language reflects culture, which then activates identity.
A song to sing
Just as these Hispanic women interpret images based on different cultures, I find I can also interpret behaviors based on the culture I'm living in.
For example, I think it completely acceptable, even commendable, to break into song in the middle of supper in French, but not so much in English; somehow, it's not proper, not part of the conservative British/Japanese tradition. Perhaps when speaking Japanese dialects or other Chinese languages I find it more acceptable.
Despite the benefits of being bicultural, it can be a struggle to reconcile our different selves. Sometimes I don't recognize my voice when I speak English but I believe, the benefits of being bicultural or tri-cultural far outweigh the negatives. The value added only makes for a fuller life.
I think about the millions of people who speak and live in just one language and culture and I wonder if they are somehow missing out. Maybe they're not really expressing all parts of themselves but again, what you don't know, you can't miss. As Voltaire said, "Sans variété, point de beauté."
Comment! (1) | Recommend! | Categories: linguistic personalities [t], linguistics [t], language [t]
Immature Vocabulary - A lack of eduacation or social upbringing?
Wednesday. 11.5.08 10:22 pm
I was recently reading a book on Japanese socio-linguistics and I found it interesting that the reason a lot of the younger generation of Japanese lack a more mature vocabulary or should I say lack a more enriched vocabulary is because of the influence of TV and comic books have on society. I am not saying that TV and comic books are no good for society but rather the way in which information is portrayed. They try to portray information in a way that is so simplistic and uses such simple vocabulary. Simple vocabulary is of course not always a bad thing it is just that it often gets overused and the consumers of the TV and comic books get habitually used to it and eventually never get a chance to enrich their vocabularies.
A few years ago, I traveled across Canada to Nova Scotia to visit old friends for the first time in 18 years. It's been a good visit but it was also an interesting eye opener. I have lived outside Canada since finishing high school over 13 years ago and this last trip was really the first time I realized how true peoples vocabularies are so shallow. Not just Eastern Canada but Western Canada as well. Typically it is the people who live in the smaller rural communities who are the worst in this situation rather than principally the Japanese youth. I found it quite disgusting on how people speak using words like "fuck" for nearly every second word. This is precisely what the Japanese professor I was reading about was saying about Japanese youth. It seems to be a lack of an enriched vocabulary that people use these words.
Thinking about this and I thought of these factors to compare both Japan and Canada. both countries call themselves highly developed industrialized nations boasting highly educated societies. In Japan the rate at which people finish high school and university is very high as compared to Canada the rate of high school completion is quite low especially in rural communities and even lower for university completion even in urban cities. In Japan there are TV game shows, animation, and other programmes, which simplify real life situations even the news and of course comic books. In Canada I am not quite sure if Canadians have similar types of TV programming as I have not lived in Canada but I am sure that it is not to the degree of Japanese TV. I am not even aware of the abundance of comic books in Canada. However, I do know that youth do spend and increasing number of hours at the TV in both cultures, which is merely an aural introduction of language and does not truly enrich vocabularies. Another factor prevalent in both cultures is the high degree of video gaming, which in my opinion is truly a non-enriching source of vocabulary.
Among my travels to Eastern and Western Canada I have noticed the lack of printed books. I have also noticed this in Japan as well. I just cannot imagine myself setting foot in a house with no books, I would feel lonely. It is true too few families invest the time in sitting to a good book. The Japanese professor of the book I was reading goes beyond this to saying that there is a lack of social involvement within families today. By this I mean for older generations there was more social conversation around the diner table now people rarely have the time to sit down to eat and talk. It is at these little social gatherings where families would share stories and children's' vocabularies would be enriched.
What are we coming to? I am not so sure if formal education in public/private school systems is to blame. I think as the Japanese professor says it is more of a problem at the family and community levels of society. Too few options for people to develop a healthy enriched vocabulary. I have not mentioned one key factor in rural communities I have noticed in Nova Scotia but is prevalent in other rural communities is the lack of travel beyond their own little boundaries and a sense of being too proud of oneself . This pride is almost too ridiculous as if they are the ultimate center of the universe The Chinese have a word that represents humbleness and modesty it is keqi. It is impolite to be arrogant and brag about oneself or one's inner circle.
Comment! (2) | Recommend! | Categories: socio-linguistics [t], education [t], communication [t]
Colloidal Silver Ceramic Water Filters
Sunday. 11.2.08 6:41 am
As the world's human population increases, the earth's limited supply of clean freshwater resources becomes increasingly stressed either by limited quantity and/or contamination from industrial pollution or human overpopulation. Therefore, it becomes increasingly important to develop strategies to protect the limited clean freshwater available as well as to have the capability to clean contaminated water for drinking purposes.
The colloidal silver ceramic water filter is not a new concept and is being manufactured by several organizations like: Ceramiques d'Afrique and Potters For Peace.
The filter is simply a porous earthenware flowerpot that is only bisqued and then coated with silver colloid to act as an anti bacterial agent. The porous earthenware pot is made from carefully screened (for uniformity) sawdust or other organic material mixed with clay and formed into an earthenware pot. The filters are bisqued at 500 degrees - a sufficient temperature to prevent them from breaking down in water ever again but suitable for allowing water to penetrate the pores and not the harmful bacteria.
Comment! (2) | Recommend! | Categories: Colloidal Silver Ceramic Water Filters [t], Potters Without Borders [t]
Saturday. 10.18.08 7:24 am
Walking into a grocery store in North America and notice how huge the milk product section is? It is discusting how the milk industry pushes milk on North Americans. I gave up milk long ago because the milk you are drinking is toxic. If you ever worked in a milk factory and yes they are factories because the cows are not treated with any respect, they are simply milk machines fed with high doses of Ivo mec (not sure the spelling) and other hormones to either boost milk yields and/or kill bacteria. Together with the hormones, the other chemicals and the milking machines that they hook up to the cows all contribute to making blood go right into the milk tanks so the milk becomes a brownish color so they have to add more chemicals to make it white again. Added to this the cows are subjected to the most horrible living conditions, cramped and dirty so they need more antibiotics. I believe most vegetarians who refuse to eat meat because they do not like harming animals are not only discusting but are plain stupid when they say “milk or cheese is my protein” maybe so but those milk lovers are causing more pain and suffering to the animals just by supporting the milk industry. Cow milk is for calves not humans. On the note about cheese, maybe cheese is a high source of protein and calcium but really it is about 90% fat. Try melting some in a pan and see how much oil comes out of cheese. If you have ever made cheese before and I have many times, out of 2 liters of milk all you get is a tiny bit of finished cheese, the rest is whey is in our modern society is thrown out to the pigs or chickens unless you are a one of the few people who drink it or use it. Whey is the most highest form of protein that is taken out of the milk when making cheese. So there you have it North Americans are once again proven to be the biggest food wasters on the planet, including vegetarians who eat milk products. Milk, coffee, sugar, salt and oil are the basis of capitalism. All of which can be reduced some can be completely elliminated from society and we would be much better off.
Comment! (3) | Recommend! | Categories: Food [t]