Coming Back from Hiatus: Meditating on Language Learning

Hello everyone! I realize it’s been a long time (nearly 3 months) since I posted last. I went on a somewhat unintentional hiatus, due to schoolwork as well as generally needing some time to think about my content. I will admit to having reached a bit of a plateau in my language learning, not being able to make significant progress in Korean and Hindi. I will be making a post on that later, but at the moment I just wanted to explain my lapse in posting.

This year was a turbulent one for people living in the United States, with the election season, and keeping up with that (as well as international happenings) took up a lot of my time. My major at NYU revolves around international relations, so naturally I needed to be in the know on those things. That’s not to say I was forsaking language learning, as I still kept up with Mandarin, since I was taking a class over this semester.

In the realm of language learning, I was having difficulty making time to study languages aside from Mandarin. I do want to make some more progress in Hindi and Korean, but I know that will take some time. I also had a lack of resources at NYU for Hindi and Korean, since I wasn’t taking a class in either one, and I didn’t have most of my language books with me.

While Hindi is an Indian language, it’s not my first language, and is unrelated to the languages that I do know. With a somewhat inconsistent grammar and a growing tendency among Hindi speakers to use anglicisms, or throwing in English words, it was difficult for me to gauge how to tailor my own learning. I am somewhat averse to using anglicisms because I feel like it makes more sense to use existing words for things that are reasonably short and/or practical.

As for Korean, it’s been a bit of a struggle due to inconsistencies on my part, since I haven’t properly committed time to learning it. My difficulty with Korean lies mostly in the fact that there are many, many ways to express the same thing in Korean, and operating along axes which I am not used to. Getting a feel for how native speakers express ideas in a practical and natural way is how I’m going to learn, but it’s slow going.

Anyway, I will try to write more posts in the coming weeks, and definitely improve my language learning strategies. I hope you all have had a wonderful New Year and holiday season. If you have any questions about language learning, just feel free to ask!

Do You Know All Your Relatives? Maybe Not.

I recently watched two videos by Off The Great Wall, a YouTube channel that makes videos concerning the Chinese culture and also things about Mandarin and Cantonese. It’s an excellent channel, and I highly recommend that you subscribe to it and watch their videos. But back to the videos I was talking about. These videos talk about the immensely complicated and detailed family tree in Mandarin and Cantonese. You can see the videos at (Mandarin) and at If you’re a Mandarin or Cantonese speaker, see if you can recognize all the words!

So, let’s get down to business. The kinship systems in Mandarin and Cantonese are essentially the Indian kinship systems on steroids, with names for extremely specific members of the family across several generations. I find that this says something about the cultures in question. I have noticed that in countries where specific terms exist for certain members of the family, there often are joint-family households or families living in close proximity. In India, grandparents, and even great-grandparents live in a main house with the children and grandchildren. Even aunts and uncles may live with them. From what I have heard from my Chinese friends, it is similar in China.

There is a great sense of familial togetherness, honor, and respect for the elders in both Chinese and Indian culture. I’m not saying that this is not the case in Western cultures, but in many European countries, families are typically nuclear families, with only parents and children living in the house. Grandparents may live with them, but it is considerably rarer than in India and China. In the US, parents often make a point of children moving out and living on their own with their own families, with a stress on the independence factor. I have a feeling that this has something to do with the kinship terminology.

In Spanish, Portuguese, and other Romance languages, there are few terms that extend beyond great-grandparents, cousins, and uncles and aunts. In Chinese, in contrast, according to the video, relatives can be distinguished by the side of the family they’re on in relation to you, who they’re married to, and their age. In the Chinese culture, there is a great stress on knowing your family very well, and it is considered poor upbringing (from what I have been told) to not know the correct terms or use them incorrectly.

Terms that extend beyond great-grandparents in Romance languages are often technical terms for genealogical purposes, whereas in Mandarin and Cantonese, the equivalent terms are used often, even if the relative in question is no longer living or not present. In Indian languages, there is more emphasis on terminology that concerns in-laws, and people insist on using them correctly. While you certainly would never call your mother-in-law saas to her face, but you would use that word to call her indirectly. With all these things in mind, it would be very easy to say that Western cultures are not as close with their families.

However, there is a counterargument to all of this: Latin American and Southern Italian families. These cultures are well known for their tight-knit extended family households, but Spanish and Italian lack the specificity of the Indian languages and Mandarin and Cantonese. However, this could be a result of societies that are historically agrarian, include village communities, and have tribal divisions, in which all members of the family would participate in daily matters and create the community. These are factors that are common to Latin America, Southern Italy, India, and China, though the American South is a notable exception due to the whole US’ rapid industrialization and technological advancement in 19th and 20th centuries.

So, you have something to think about. Please leave your comments and like the page on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-World-Speaks/1486154531625005! Like and share/reblog this post if you liked it!

National Foreign Language Week

National Foreign Language Week celebrates the speaking of foreign languages in America, and was inaugurated by Eloise Therese, 1956-1960 president of Alpha Mu Gamma, a college-level foreign language honor society, in 1957. Each year, the week serves as a time of advocacy and encouragement of the learning of foreign languages, from March 4 to March 10. This event is so important that President Eisenhower, in 1956, sent a telegram endorsing the celebration. Each successive president has similarly shown support for this event.

At your school, workplace, or wherever, you should encourage the celebration of this event in whatever way you can! Start learning a new language, teach one to your children, or improve on your skills by enrolling in community college course! I cannot stress enough how important foreign language education is, especially in the context of our nation, one made of people from all walks of life, from many countries, and of different language traditions. I greatly anticipate this event, so I can celebrate it with my club at my school!

Coke’s “America the Beautiful”

On the most recent weekend, I’d heard about the so-called, “controversy,” of the Coke commercial during the Super Bowl, which involved the performance of the American patriotic song, “America the Beautiful,” in other languages. Only yesterday did I actually see the video for myself, and I am disgusted by the comments on it.

How is it that we, the United States of America, can be so divided in our beliefs on what ought to be a trivial commercial? United under English we may be (albeit for the sake of our individual functionalities in society), but to say that this song should not be sung in any other language but English is absurd and untrue to the American spirit of the virtues of life, liberty, and the right to the pursuit of happiness. It is a blow to life, where the cultural and linguistic lives of our multi-ethnic society are put in jeopardy. It is an attack upon personal liberty, where the immigrants and their descendants are discouraged from freely speaking their mother tongues and thereby forced to abandon their cultural identity and heritage. It is to abolish the right to the pursuit of happiness, to claim that when immigrants come to our country, they must speak English, abandon their own ways, assimilate into our society, and ultimately lose all sense of self, individuality, identity, and self, compromising personal happiness, such as one’s happiness upon their identity fully crystallizing and coming to terms with it.

So I ask you: If you deny the multi-ethnic nature of our society, how can you call yourself American, when you deny this important personal liberty, to speak one’s mother tongue and establish one’s cultural identity? How dare you deny liberty, a virtue that our colonial forefathers fought for!