The inauguration

obama_inauguration_speechtoday’s inauguration left me speechless. So when I saw this graphic faciliation on Twitter I knew I had to share this image with everyone. There are many aspects of his address about which I could go on, but I will just highlight what I found memorable:

We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.


Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.


What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

Annunci

is social media really an “us” vs. “them”?

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for some time but hadn’t found my courage voice for it. It was born from a comment of a student evaluation from a fall course that stated that not only were my “clothes inappropriate” but I also “had Facebook”. The comment on my wardrobe is completely off (my outfits are always professional and tasteful) but then again the idea of fashion has always been a generational thing … has technology now become the next great generational divide?

Of late, there has been a resurgence of talk about parents on Facebook and MySpace and what kind of parents has his/her own account. Over the weekend, at a BBQ in the rain, this became part of what started as a small exchange between 3 moms (myself included) to a group conversation with many parents. In a previous post on texting, the generation gap is obvious…new technologies sometimes elude people who are not interested in learning (isn’t that always the case though?). So one of the first questions that arose was “How old do you have to be to have a Facebook account?”. One of the mom’s replied “under 40”. The parents all laughed and said “that counts us out”.  Of course, it is an easy out…we don’t fit the age criterion so we are safe. Then a friend turned to me and said “Wait, you’re not 40. Do you have one?” And that started an engaging conversation about technology, media literacy vs. literacy, and what all this means.

As I have mentioned in the past, each exploration of new applications, platforms, networks, etc. was purely academic in nature. Unfortunately, it has become much more than work. I have become a partisan of social media for many reasons: it is informative, educational, entertaining, enlightening and allows me to meet not just my neighbours, colleagues, and friends but expand my geographical limitations by allowing me to converse and “friend” people from the far corners of the earth.

In my humble opinion, the idea that certain sites become “theirs” (students, teens, kids) and others “ours” (educators, adults, parents) is speculative. There are too many social dichotomies that become reinforced (and perhaps validated?) when we fall into the trap of dividing technological culture according to our biases, fears and misunderstandings. This mutual exclusivity of sites and apps for certain age groups demonstrates an unwillingness of users to see beyond their own nose. Perhaps this is one key difference between “us” and “them”… are we adults more “global” in our use of technology? Are they more “solipsistic”? lol! I fell into the trap, didn’t I?

These sites can provide different services and serve different needs for a multitude of users and I think it is up to each user to accept and open her/his mind to the unending possibilities that things like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Plurk, etc. can provide without wanting exclusive rights to it.

Is this just another phase in the evolution of generational gaps or is it something more? What do you think?

to learn italian or english? both…

One of the greatest rewards of teaching is when your students teach you something. I have taught one of the most challenging courses in my 4 years here this spring semester: Advanced Italian Grammar a.k.a intro to Italian linguistics. I attempted to present students to the scientific study of language, from phonology to morphology to syntax to sociolinguistics. Interspersed there was also the history of the Italian language as well as a unit on dialects. I was very enthusiastic about this course and we all know that a good dose of enthusiasm is contagious…

As part of the course requirements, my students were to keep a linguistic diary. I wanted them to consult various forms of media and reflect metalinguistically on Italian. These 10 journal entries for many were expected: influences of foreign words in the Italian language, phonetic and semantic variations of dialects, denotative and connotative significance in newspaper headlines, web, etc. Then, a few students surprise me: YouTube videos, movie clips, Italian corporate websites & advertisements to provide great examples of living language and how the scientific study of it is actually relevant.

One student used this as a sample of the development of oral proficiency for an Italian ESL (English as a second language) learner and takes this discussion to the concept of sociolinguistic awareness. The ESL student asks the Corriere della Sera’s resident expert of Italians why it is so difficult to understand spoken English. Beppe Severgnini (columnist, author) replies to this question:

L’inglese, come mi ha spiegato il guru Giles Watson con cui ho aggiornato “Lezioni Semiserie”, è ostico per l’orecchio italiano. Noi – come i francesi e gli spagnoli – parliamo una lingua “syllable-timed”, in cui la velocità di pronuncia corrisponde grosso modo al numero di sillabe che contiene. L’inglese è una lingua “stress-timed”: la durata della frase corrisponde al numero di accenti con cui chi parla sceglie di scandirla.

English, as it was explained to me by the master Giles Watson…is unpalatable for the Italian ear. We (Italians)-like the French and Spanish-speak a “syllable-timed” language whose pronunciation tempo is determined by and large by the number of syllables contained in an utterance. English is a “stressed-timed” language: the length of the statement corresponds to the number of inflections that the speaker wishes to articulate.

Interesting…

Even more interesting are the “one-a-day for a month” reasons Severgnini provides to encourage Italians to learn English. I will highlight those that I found utterly amusing 😉 (all translations are mine…)

1 Perché siete stanchi di dire “Non parlo l’inglese, ma lo capisco…”.
1. Because you are tired of saying “I don’t speak English but I understand it…”

2 Perché parlare con le mani, alla lunga, stanca.
2. Because speaking with your hands, in the long run, is tiring.

3 Perché capirete come riempire quel modulo su internet (un terzo della Rete funziona in inglese).
3. Because you will understand how to fill out that online form (1/3 of the Web is in English)

4 Perché così, quando vi insultano all’estero, evitate di ringraziare.
4. Because when Italians are insulted abroad, you won’t thank them.

6 Perché in America saprete leggere i cartelli stradali (one way non è una canzone di Frank Sinatra: vuol dire “senso unico”).
6. Because in America you will know how to read street signs (one way is not a Sinatra tune:…)

14 Perché quando sentirete “Vorrei shiftare la vostra attenzione sul break-even del nostro business, un must che stressa la necessità di downsizing”, almeno lo sapete: vi stanno licenziando.
14. Because when you hear “I would like to shift your attention to our business’ break-even point, a must which stresses the necessity to downsize”, you will know that you are being fired.

15. Perché un po’ già lo parlate. No comment, in fondo, è una frase completa.
15. Because you already speak it a bit. No comment, is in fact a complete sentence.

20 Perché comunque è impossibile far peggio di quel ministro italiano che, a New York, ha chiesto “gamberetts and fagiols”.
20. Because it’s impossible anyway to speak worse than that Italian minister in New York that asked for “gamberetts and fagiols”.

26 Perché capirete le canzoni inglesi e americane, e vi renderete conto che spesso sono più cretine delle nostre.
26. Because you will understand American and English songs and realize that often they are more idiotic than Italian songs.

27 Perché se George Bush dovesse invitarvi a cena, potrete commentare la cucina della Casa Bianca (Good heaven! How can you eat this junk, old boy? Now I see why you’re so nervous all the time and you ended up messing around in the Middle East…).
27. Because if Bush were to invite you to dinner, you could comment about White House cuisine (Good heaven! How can you eat this junk, old boy? Now I see why you’re so nervous all the time and you ended up messing around in the Middle East…).

29 Perché un brasiliano, per chiedere a un tedesco in Italia di presentargli un collega francese per discutere dello svedese Ibrahimovic, parlerà inglese.
29. Because a Brasilian asking a German in Italy to introduce him to a French colleague to discuss the Swedisch Ibrahimovic will speak in English.

31 Perché è trendy, baby.