Brexit and Portmanteaus

Recently, this whole Brexit chaos has been the talk of many of my friends and people across the world. This is especially visible on social media, like Twitter and Tumblr. “Brexit” is very obviously a combination of the words “Britain” and “exit” in English. The alternative voting option was “Bremain”. Now, people are making predictions about the EU nations that might leave the Union in the near future. And now, the internet is trying to be clever and witty with portmanteaus. 

Just for your info, a portmanteau is just a combination of two words, squished together. As a result of the UK leaving, people are freaking out over the apparently imminent disintegration of the EU. This has caused the internet to concoct things like Finish (Finland), Oustria, (Austria), Italeave (Italy), and Fruckoff (France). Now, my problem isn’t the political commentary flying around (though I have my own opinions that I won’t expound on here). In fact, it’s the use of portmanteaus in English!

So what should we do? We should obviously be making these words in the country’s native languages, since “Brexit” is only appropriate for an English speaking country. Here’s one: Uscitalia, a combination of Italia and uscire (“to exit/depart” in Italian). Or Partigal, from Portugal and partir (one word for “to leave” in Portuguese). And there’s also Espartida (España + partida), which one of my friends debated with me on Facebook.

Captura de ecrã 2016-06-28, às 09.25.51_censored
I’m not really a fan of “Espalida”. It sounds like “espalda”.

Now, the thing is that it’s not a really a problem in and of itself. I just feel like it would be much more effective to the people living in the countries that we’re talking about. For example, Grexit is just a ripoff of Brexit, and that’s boring. I think what would be more interesting and truer to the Greek language is Ελλάδα (Elláda) + έξοδος (éxodos).  Which might be something like Ελλάξοδος (Elláxodos)! It sounds pretty epic if you ask me. Forgive me, Greek speakers if I’ve committed some error of orthographic convention or something. Let me know if there’s something better!

Here are some that we might consider for Germany and Austria. Deutschlassen (Deutschland + [ver]lassen) and Östergang (Österreich + Ausgang). Just Ausgang sounded better but the Aus- part unfortunately isn’t from German.

If any one else can come up with brilliant native language equivalents for things like Finish, Slovakout, or something else, please leave them in the comments! Or if you have better stuff than I can come up with! Disclaimer: this post has zero to do with my politics.

(Credits to @golub on Twitter. Due credit to your brillant contribution and inspiring this post.)

Language in Jeopardy: How to Protect Our Mother Tongues in Public

Take a look at this article before reading on: http://blog.angryasianman.com/2016/06/40-civil-rights-groups-demand.html

When I read this post from Angry Asian Man, I became an angry Asian man, to say the least. This kind of ignorance needs to be stamped out. In an age where Islamic terrorism threatens the lives of innocent Muslims who live in the diaspora, we need to be more vigilant on the behalf of these members of our societies. It is our responsibility to listen to them when they decry Islamic terrorism, rather than ignore them and then ask why they don’t say anything.

But more than anything, this incident’s relation to language struck me particularly strongly. Why the hell are these two men being arrested because some idiotic passenger thinks that any brown-skinned people speaking a language they don’t understand is a terrorist. When this keeps happening on planes, buses, and other forms of public transport, I’m just floored by the people who say they should have been speaking English. Let’s consider the facts: these two men are foreign nationals (Pakistani and Indian respectively) who don’t speak English very well and are in a land very far from home. It’s only natural that they would find solace in finding someone else who speaks their language in a foreign land. Why do people suddenly have to place a label of suspicion on people who haven’t done anything, or cannot be proven to have done anything?

The lack of respect for the Sikh man’s violation of his person by removing his turban, a sacred item in the Sikh religion, is not enough, apparently. This man is apparently not even allowed speak his own language with someone else who does.

Something similar happened with a Chinese woman in Arizona (you can read the article here). Getting punched by someone for speaking your mother tongue in public is racist, prejudiced, and unbelievably horrible in so many ways. Even though I live and go to school in fairly liberal places (California and New York, respectively), I’m dreading the day where I have to be careful about what language I speak in public. As an aspiring polyglot who aims to specialize in Mandarin and Arabic translation/interpretation, these incidents are of great concern to me. These people who hear Arabic, Punjabi, Chinese, and other Asian and Middle Eastern languages in public and then react in these ways are a problem. This needs to stop. But what can we do?

  1. If you hear or see someone making private or public accusations of terrorism based on someone’s appearance or what language they’re using, you tell them that’s not okay. Just because you can’t tell the difference between Punjabi and Arabic doesn’t automatically mean they’re Middle Eastern, and that definitely doesn’t mean they’re terrorists even if they were. Leave them alone!
  2. Start learning other languages! Those who know other languages are frequently more open-minded than others and are exposed to a wider variety of opinions and beliefs than they might be otherwise. We should be instituting the teaching of Arabic and immigrant languages in schools rather than traditionally taught languages like French, Latin, or Spanish. Mandarin in schools is a step in teh right direction.
  3. Help out non-English speaking communities by employing your language to supply them with opportunities for jobs, community, basic amenities, and other necessities for living in a country where few people speak your language.
  4. To immigrant children: Don’t let go of your language. If you never knew it, try to get back in touch with it. Help out those in your community who need you. If you don’t speak it well, it’s never too late to start brushing up (as I can testify in the case of my Kannada skills).

And no, just because this is America doesn’t mean you have to speak English all the time. This isn’t a refusal to speak English at all. But if I want to have a conversation in another language, I have every right to do so. You have no business regulating what and what I can’t say, since we have the freedom of speech. Not everything we say has to be for public consumption. Immigrants and other people use their languages because it’s what’s comfortable for them. We are under no obligation or responsibility to use English if we don’t need or want to. Don’t tell us what to speak.

Stop demonizing immigrants and their languages.

Thanks to Angry Asian Man for these articles. They have inspired me to be more active and political in my involvement with language.

What’s the best language to learn?

As a foreign language nut, for those who know me, I’ve been asked on multiple occasions what I think is the best language to learn. Language, being a universal thing by nature, is also universally applicable. It has so many uses, and different languages are suited to different things. Purposes include utility and beauty. While many perspectives on the two exist, here is my piece:

When it comes to the most useful language to learn, most people consider Mandarin Chinese to be the most useful, followed by Japanese. China has become a considerable economic entity in recent years, as has Japan. Both have fairly wide areas of economic hegemony, and doing business in those countries is very likely to be useful. However, in the realm of politics, I believe that Hebrew, Farsi, and Arabic are among the more useful languages. They are largely overlooked, due to the stigma associated with the Middle East, and difficulty in learning. As issues grow in Iraq, Iran, and Israel, the US is also pressed further into involvement with those conflicts. By knowing those languages, and using them to negotiate with the people of those countries, a more peaceful outcome might be possible, due to a medium of mutual understanding.

As for the most beautiful language, Hindi-Urdu, Italian, and Hebrew rank in my top three. Hindi has a rich musical legacy, ranging from Vedic chants to Bollywood music (although some of it is rubbish these days). The most beautiful songs in Hindi-Urdu that come to mind are Teri Justajoo (Saaware) from Shor in the City, Sajda from My Name Is Khan, and Titli, from Chennai Express. All are decent movies, except for the last one, which is almost wholly a slapstick comedy, with this one jewel of a song, although part of the song is in Tamil. Hindi-Urdu is one of the most beautiful lyrical languages, with expressive vocabulary that conveys a wide variety of emotions, aspects, and actions, deeper than most other languages.

Italian is the second most beautiful, in my opinion, shown in its ubiquity in classical vocal music, and also the rhythmic, lyrical flow of the language. It’s also quite entertaining to speak, especially with other people. It is often said to be the most romantic of all the Romance languages.

Hebrew has been called an odd choice as a favorite language by my friends, who regard it as somewhat harsh and clunky. However, I have heard fluent speakers, who speak the language with grace and beauty. The language, in vocal music, has the potential to rival Hindi-Urdu, with its rich, meaningful vocabulary. Good Hebrew singers have a solid foundation yet fluid range in their voice quality, commanding the language as if it were an orchestra conducted by a masterful maestro.

Well, that’s my bit for today. Leave your opinions in the comments! I’d love to hear other peoples’ views on this topic.