A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Emojis and Culture – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
If anybody pays attention to the Miss Universe Pageant, they’ll know about the “little scandal” that took place at the end of the competition in late December. Steve Harvey, better known as the host of family feud, accidentally declared Colombia the winner when the Philippines had won. He then proceeded to spell Colombia as Columbia in his Twitter apology, adding insult to injury.
Personally, I don’t follow the Miss Universe Pageant, but, as an individual with Facebook and a feed that shows the opinions of many of my Colombian students, I certainly heard quite a bit about it.
(Statue of Colombian history in Medellin, Colombia.)
The night of the pageant, my Facebook feed blew up with comments and rants from my Colombian university students. They reposted articles and edited videos, made memes, and proudly claimed that, when the contestant returned home, they would still consider her the winner. Yes, there were vitriolic comments about Steve Harvey, but the vast majority of my students filled their Facebook bingeing posts with comments about how they were proud of Colombia. In contrast, the majority of the posts made by people in the United States targeted Steve Harvey and his embarrassing mistake.
There was also one other major difference between posts made by people in Colombia and the United States: emojis. It’s definitely common for people around the world to include emojis (or emoticons–I’m not sure which word is preferred now) in their Facebook posts and messages, but my experience in Colombia has drastically changed my perspective of “cultural emoji use” and “texting etiquette”. In fact, prior to living in Colombia, I would have never thought I would one day use the term “cultural emoji use” or “texting etiquette”.
I definitely saw a fair amont of use of emojis by people in various countries, but many of the posts made by my Colombia university students were purely emojis. A single post with a single frowny face. A single post with a series of pictures illustrating what happened at the Miss Universe Pageant. Emojis are everywhere and they are very, very necessary.
Unrelated to the Miss Universe Pageant, but highly relevant to the idea of differences in “texting etiquette”, are the use of the “winky” emoji and short messages.
In the United States, when do you use the “winky” emoji? My answer is never. I would think that many other people would also say never. Accidentally substituting the “winky” emoji for a smiling emoji is a cause to apologize and explain your mistake. In Colombia, it is quite the opposite–the “winky” face is everywhere, and it took me quite by surprise when I first began communicating with professors.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: Do you want me to visit your 6:15 class tomorrow?
Me: Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.
Professor: Good! 😉
I was so confused. Why was the “winky” face used? What did it mean? What was he trying to imply? I quickly learned that the face meant nothing and it was used by everybody in every situation to mean absolutely nothing more than a smiling face.
In terms of texting etiquette, the other cultural difference that took me by surprise was the length of messages. It might just be me, but the messages I’ve always been accustomed to sending are fairly long.
A hypothetical sample:
Hey! I’ve been at work all day, sorry I didn’t text you. Are you busy on Saturday?
A hypothetical sample of what I would receive in Colombia:
Text 1: Hey.
Text 2: Just got back from work.
Text 3: Was working all day.
Text 4: Are you busy Saturday?
The result is that when I first moved to Bogota I was convinced that everybody I was talking to was always in some dire situation or emergency. I would pull out my phone as it buzzed uncontrollably or I would have a minor panic attack when I pulled out my phone and it suddenly informed me that I had thirty-five messages. Thankfully, I’ve since learned the texting etiquette. The only detrimental effect is that I now send five to six text messages instead of a single response and often annoy my friends and family in the United States.
About our special correspondent Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.
I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.
While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.
I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu
See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports
The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).
For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.
Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu