Tag Archives: languages

Athens, Greece – The Universal Language – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Athens, Greece – The Universal Language – by Allison Brennhofer. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Three friends and I traveled to Athens, Greece. It was an amazing trip, in my opinion. The weather was not the best but I have dreamed about visiting Greece since I was a child, so I viewed the entire trip through rose colored glasses. We saw the Acropolis and various other ruins and sites that blew me away. The sheer amount of history held in one city is astounding to me. I also grew up reading Greek myths and legends, so it was a little unreal to be able to see these temples and places dedicated to the gods and goddesses.

None of us speak Greek. However, that was never an issue. I had been a little nervous about the language barrier, but the city was incredibly easy to navigate without knowing Greek. We either walked or took the metro everywhere. All of the signs and stop names were listed in Greek and English. All of the sites that we visited, such as the Acropolis and Hadrian’s Library, had signs and plaques in English as well as Greek.

[A sign with Greek and English words]

We stayed in an Airbnb, which allowed us to stay in a residential neighborhood. It was a ten minute walk south of the Acropolis, which was a phenomenal location. Even in this less touristy location, many of the restaurants we went to had English translations on their menus. Most of the servers spoke English, which helped when we had questions about what certain foods were.

[The Old Temple at the Acropolis]

My point here is that I had not realized how we are both lucky and unlucky that so many people speak our language across the world. Lucky, because it takes a lot of the stress out of traveling to other countries. It may not sound that difficult when you live in an English speaking country, but when I was actually confronted with a few Greek people who did not speak English, it was a huge obstacle. I was frustrated at first, but at myself more than anything. I had no right to be annoyed a Greek person did not speak English. If anything, I would understand if the Greek people were annoyed at these tourists that show up and expect to be catered to. I think it is also a little unlucky that our language is so universal. It enables our laziness as a country in language proficiency. I took French from seventh grade to eleventh grade. As soon as I figured out I was going to CSS, which only carries a three year language requirement, I dropped French my senior year. While I certainly was not bad, I was not great at it. And I am the person who does not like to do things that do not come naturally to me (a great character flaw I am working on).

[In Athens, orange trees line the streets]

This casual assumption that I can travel most places around the world, at least to main cities, and find people who speak my language, is an incredibly privileged assumption. I am working on lessening my assumptions. I attempted to use my incredibly rusty French when I traveled there for Spring Break, which worked as a way to start the conversation. However, I am nowhere near good enough to carry a conversation on in French. I understand that Athens is a city that depends heavily on tourism for a source of revenue for their economy, which is a big part of why so many people speak English there. But we saw people of all nationalities visiting there at the same time as us. I highly doubt every Greek person speaks Mandarin, Russian, or Spanish, just to name a few other languages. Other tourists probably also speak English, but that just feeds back into the cycle where English is held up as the universal language. It certainly is a beneficial language to know, in a world where the United States is so a prominent player in world affairs. But with the growing number of speakers of other languages such as Spanish and Mandarin, it just struck me as incredibly selfish and self-absorbed to continue thinking English is the only language a person should know.

Allison serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.

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 three years we have published over 250 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. The North Star Reports 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. 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. Eleni Birhane and Matthew Breeze, Assistant Managing Editors, 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, with generous support from 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

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Filed under Allison Brennhofer, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

Taiwan – Spending the Summer in Taipei – by Megan Beckerich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Taiwan – Spending the Summer in Taipei – by Megan Beckerich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[Pictured: Jiufen, a former Japanese administered coal mining town turned tourist hot spot and inspiration for Spirited Away]

The summer of 2016 is one I won’t forget anytime soon, and not because it only just happened a few months ago. I had just graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a BA in International Studies, and I decided to study abroad one final time through my alma mater. I wanted to continue my education in Mandarin Chinese, and my solution was to study abroad in Taiwan. It was a chance to brush up my lackluster speaking and writing skills, meet new people, and take a little break after working so hard in my four years at Northern Kentucky University.

I had studied abroad once before through an exchange program offered through my university. I went to Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan for their international summer school in 2015. Having “caught the travel bug,” as they say, I needed to go abroad again, and I found out I could go to a partner school the summer after I gradate. Thus, I applied to National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan. I was accepted into their 8-week summer school, and I had the option to enroll in additional classes besides the necessary Mandarin class. I decided to take a Philosophy class that discussed I-Ching (an ancient book that used for fortune telling and discussed the basis of the universe), Confucianism, and Daoism. That class was only three days a week for two weeks, as opposed to the Mandarin class five days a week for the entire 8 weeks. I stayed in the international student’s dorm, and became close with students from Australia, England, and everywhere in between. With two of my three goals checked off, that left goal three: the fun times. Taipei is stuffed with museums, parks, a zoo (a convenient 15 minute walk from my dorm), shops, restaurants, and for those willing to go a little bit out of the city limit: impressive nature parks and historical sites.

Making your way around Taipei is quite easy thanks to the glorious public transportation. Our school generously provided us transit cards (aptly named the “easy card”), making it easier to travel by bus or train. Because classes dominated our afternoons everyday, my classmates and I would do most of our sightseeing over the weekend, or in the evening. Sunset is when the night markets would open, and almost every other night was spent exploring a market for bargains (clothes, phone accessories, jewelry, tableware; if you can think of something you want for cheap, odds are they had it) and delicious food.

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[Noodles with a tea egg (egg hard-boiled in tea)]

Oh the food! In a lot of travel guides you will see people rave about Taiwanese food. As well they should, the food and drink in Taiwan is amazing. Noodles, egg pancakes, shaved ice… Just about anything you could want, you can find. That is not to omit the drinks in Taiwan. Bubble tea, rapidly gaining popularity in America and Europe originated in Taiwan, and boy does it show. One can hardly walk a block without spotting a bubble tea shop, and most stores offer a wide variety of flavors. If you don’t find bubble tea appealing, you can just as easily find milk tea and fruit tea if you want something cold, or traditional Oolong, black, green, or white tea if you want something hot. It’s familiar and different, a great reminder of the globalized world we live in.

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[Lychee shaved ice (notice the jelly on top!)]

Having returned from Taiwan, I miss being in an active learning environment, and exploring new places (and the food if that wasn’t obvious). However, because of this experience I gained a new level of self-confidence in not just my language acquisition, but also in my personal leadership skills. I don’t know what the immediate future has in store for me, but I’m ready to embrace whatever comes.

Megan Beckerich is a student at Northern Kentucky University

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 three years we have published over 250 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. The North Star Reports 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. 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, with generous support from 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

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English: The Globalized Language – by Molly Enich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

English: The Globalized Language – by Molly Enich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[Farewell sign in Montenegro translated to English]

This past May, my family and I traveled the Mediterranean on a cruise for three weeks. We explored six countries, including Greece, Montenegro, Spain, Gibraltar, Italy, and France. We would hop off the ship and find ourselves immersed in a completely different culture, language, and place than we were the previous day. Through exploring so many cities and cultures in just three weeks, I started to notice the differences amongst multiple countries and compare them to American culture.

What I seemed to pick up and make note of was the language being spoken. My family and I could be eating lunch at a small café in Montenegro, and the waiters would be speaking English. It was so surprising that no matter where we were, no matter how big or small the city was, everyone spoke some English. I was never handed a menu that didn’t have English translations under the nation’s official language. Through my whole three-week vacation, I never encountered a time when I couldn’t see or hear English. Sometimes, I didn’t even feel like I was out of the US because English seemed to be everywhere I looked.

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[A sign in a Greek park that was translated to English]

I especially noticed that English seemed to be the common language for tourists in Greece. The Greek language has few characters that resemble letters found in English or European languages. Therefore, all road signs and monument markings were translated to English. What was shocking is that they weren’t translated to Italian or another language within close proximity to Greece. It was all in English.

English is also commonly spoken in Greece. While walking down the street in Athens, I heard a Chinese woman ask a local for directions in English. This really opened my eyes and allowed me to see how many people in this world are bilingual or even greater. Tour guides we had in the Vatican spoke a minimum of three languages, and locals would switch from speaking Italian to English mid sentence. While in Europe, I felt as if my three years of high school Spanish were simply inadequate and pretty much embarrassing. Looking at most countries in the world, they are taught multiple languages from a young age, while in America, the majority of us just know a few Spanish, French, or German words from high school classes. The rest of the world seems to know that Americans can’t speak many other languages so we were often talked about right in front of our faces without having a clue what was said. In one case, we were standing in an elevator and two German women were snickering and talking about mine and my sister’s outfit. The only way we could tell they were talking about us was because they were foreword enough to point at us and stare while laughing. It was really embarrassing that we had no idea what they were saying and that they could talk freely about us while we didn’t have a clue.

img_0056

[Even though McDonald’s is an American restaurant, I still expected the menu to be written in the local language instead of English]

In some ways, I felt inferior on my vacation to Europe. I couldn’t understand what people were saying as they walked by, and the only thing I could say is “hello” or “thank you” in the local language. It was strange to me that even though I was a tourist coming to their homeland to experience their culture and language, locals had to conform to the English language and American culture. I felt that if I could speak the local language, I would be respected. I believe that locals would think much more highly of tourists if they took the time to learn about the local culture instead of them having to change to fit the lifestyle of tourists.

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 three years we have published over 250 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. The North Star Reports 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. 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, with generous support from 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

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Filed under Molly Enich, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

The “Moscow of the Far East”: An Introduction to Harbin, China – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The “Moscow of the Far East”: An Introduction to Harbin, China – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[The Saint Sophia Cathedral, a former Russian Orthodox church-turned-city museum that serves as Harbin’s most recognizable landmark.]

Towering onion dome cathedrals and Stalinist spires…matryoshka nesting dolls and tins of caviar sitting in shop windows…broad streets, or prospekti, criss-crossing an urban landscape…

Based on these descriptions, one would assume that this place would be the most Russian of Russian cities. However, these are actually some of the key sights to see in Harbin, a city located in the northernmost throes of China! Harbin, the capital of China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province, offers a fish-out-of-water experience and a standout highlight of any expedition into China.

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[A mountain of matryoshka Russian nesting dolls for sale.]

The city of Harbin as it is known today dates back to the end of the 19th century – a spring chicken as far as most Chinese cities are concerned! The Russian Empire was consolidating ownership of its Siberian reaches via the Trans-Siberian Railroad and wanted a shortcut route to Vladivostok, its key Pacific port. The Qing Empire ruling China at that time granted Russia permission to build the Chinese Eastern Railway in its territory. Construction lasted from 1897-1901 and during that time, hundreds of Russian workers and railroad personnel settled in the area. They ultimately decided to remain there even after they finished building the railway. Noting Harbin’s steady growth following this settlement, China declared Harbin an “open city” in order to further promote trade opportunities. Hundreds of immigrants, chiefly from Russia but from other countries as well, flocked to Harbin to help and build up this rising economic centre. Harbin also offered a safe haven for people under persecution, and thus groups such as Eastern European Jews and Russian dissidents of the Bolshevik regime relocated to Harbin as a place of refuge. The influx of people and businesses helped Harbin carve out an identity as an eclectic and bustling city; nicknames such as “the Paris of the Far East” and the “Moscow of the Orient” provide further testament to its cosmopolitan reputation.

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[A monument to Mao Zedong and other key figures in the foundation of the People’s Republic of China .]

However, these glory days were not meant to last. China’s regional neighbor Japan had been demonstrating its imperial expansionist ambitions and invaded northeastern China in the 1930s. Japanese occupation proved devastating for Harbin; the Japanese army’s control of the city’s transportation hubs was a massive blow for its economy. Additionally, thousands of residents in and near Harbin fell victim to Japanese biological warfare experiments that were being tested at this time. After the Japanese were expelled from Harbin following their defeat in WWII, members of the Chinese Communist Party entered the area and Harbin became a key base for Communist forces during the Chinese Civil War. After the Communists’ victory and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Harbin returned to Chinese rule and began a new chapter in its history.

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[A red lantern in the window of an ice castle.]

Over the next few decades, the Chinese population of Harbin substantially increased as the Chinese government promoted it as a base of heavy industry. Simultaneously, the Russian population steeply declined due to mass outward migrations to escape Japanese and Chinese control, Soviet deportations, etc. In terms of cultural and demographic terms, Harbin today is much less ethnically diverse than in times prior. Despite these significant changes in Harbin’s make-up, the influence of Russian culture is still clearly evident in several aspects of day-to-day life, such as architecture, monuments, merchandise and foodstuffs, etc. Furthermore, while Russian and Chinese influences are most predominantly visible in Harbin, other cultures have further added to the city’s cosmopolitan flair. The Harbin Jewish New Synagogue Museum is the most prominent remainder of the Harbin Jewish community’s legacy. The city features the Daowai Mosque, and ethnic Uyghur and Hui people that form part of China’s Islamic minority operate several restaurants and noodle shops. The streets are dotted with Thai, Korean, and Mongolian restaurants, and the city even features an ornate Indian Quarter! All of these details blend into the background of the cityscape yet offer tantalizing hints to the mosaic that is Harbin’s identity. With all of these factors in mind, Harbin is a centre of multicultural synthesis in China and a very worthwhile place to explore further in depth!

Works Consulted

China Briefing Media. China Briefing’s Business Guide to Beijing and North-East China. China Briefing Media, 2006. Accessed April 25, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=M2TvFN9DmqkC&pg=PA211&lpg=PA211 &dq=harbinopencity&source=bl&ots=EkeKrpus6W&sig=uPf5JqrwgsG_8TPF76 Vi3paHcUc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi0x_3hn6fMAhXDYqYKHbgMBKc 4ChDoAQgcMAA#v=onepage&q=harbinopen city&f=false.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Harbin”, accessed April 24, 2016, http://global.britannica.com/place/Harbin.

“Harbin Travel Guide.” Travel China Guide. Accessed April 24, 2016. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/heilongjiang/harbin/.

King, R. Todd. “Harbin’s History.” RToddKing.com. 2005. Accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.rtoddking.com/chinawin2005_hb_hi.htm.

Song, Candice. “Harbin History.” ChinaHighlights. July 28, 2014. Accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.chinahighlights.com/harbin/history.htm.

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 three years we have published over 250 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. The North Star Reports 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. 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, with generous support from 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

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Filed under Marin Ekstrom, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – “The Native Speaker” – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – “The Native Speaker” – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

I will be leaving my university before the end of the Fulbright grant period.

Among other personal reasons is the main reason that I am unhappy with my university; I am more than a native English-speaking “object”. I am a teacher, and (quite strangely) nobody seems willing to allow me to teach.

While this isn´t the experience of every English teacher in Bogota, it is the experience that I have had during my time here. There is an overwhelming desire that many people have in Bogota to learn English, practice English, and speak in English. The students who are dedicated to the idea of learning English often take supplemental private classes outside of their required university courses.

There is, however, in my opinion a very positive bias towards people who are native speakers of English.

LauraNative1

I am a licensed Spanish teacher in the United States. It means that I know how to teach Spanish and, when my skills are stripped down to their fundamental level, I understand a little bit about how to teach language in general. I´m not a trained English teacher. The only claim to competence that I have is a mash up of my Spanish teaching skills and the fact that I´ve spoken English for the entirety of my twenty-two year life.

Bogota is full of people who teach English, many of whom have less of a claim to competence than I do. That´s not bad. There´s certainly a necessity for English teachers no matter how skilled in teaching they are. However, the majority of the people I’ve met in Colombia never seem to mind whether somebody is a trained English teacher or simply a native speaker–in fact, it is usually only the “native speaker of English” that seems to be important.

LauraNative2

As I visited more and more classes at my university, there seemed to be a common theme: It didn´t particularly matter if my lessons were good, if the students were engaged, or if the students even paid attention. What mattered was that I was a native speaker and that the students got to hear me speak. The students asked me all generic questions (“Where are you from?”,“Are you married?”, “Do you have a boyfriend?”, “What do you look for in a Colombian man?”), and then whether or not I taught a lesson seemed irrelevant to both the professor and the students. I was the “native-speaker” from the States who talked and looked different. The professors complained if I didn´t visit every single one of the 110 English classes because it was so important for the students to just “meet me”, and the students seemed to feel in many cases that simply having me say things at them with no structure, scaffolding, or goal, would magically increase their English skills.

Those of you that are native speakers of English, do you feel like you could teach a class on English grammar right now? Modal verbs? Auxiliary verbs? Past participles? I´ve been teaching in Bogota for six months and I still stumble over English grammar. Deep down, I don´t feel qualified and I feel like I´m a bad teacher, but nobody cares because I´m a native speaker of English.

I was confused about the whole process until a student came to my tutoring hours. When I told him that I would be returning to the United States soon, he was crestfallen and explained that he wanted the opportunity “to talk with a native speaker”. He went on to explain that he was taking English courses at another school and he thought he was learning a lot “because there are no more than six students in a class”, but he didn´t like the classes because it was taught by a Colombian, somebody who wasn´t a native speaker of English. He explained that the reason that he refused to speak English to me was that his school had never given him the opportunity to speak to a native speaker. Therefore, he wasn’t prepared despite the fact that we had communicated extensively in English through Facebook Messenger.

LauraNative3

(A lot of my university students in Colombia have taken the same English course again and again through Elementary and High School. It’s the same basic topics, similar to how many students in the United States take many years of (usually) Spanish and learn the same things. The only difference is that English classes in Colombia are influenced by the fact that the government has set a deadline for everyone in the country to be bilingual.)

To me, there seems to be a widely held perception that native English speakers can magically impart the English language unto any person that bothers to pay for private classes. In order to learn English, you must sign up for English classes, and the English classes must fulfill two components: 1) they must have as few students as possible, preferably only one, and 2) the teacher must be a native speaker. If these two components are not met, the perception is that a student must travel to the United States or England to learn the language through immersion. When students come to my tutoring hours, which are designed as times where they can bring homework or projects that they tend to never complete, they don´t bring ideas or homework to work on. They simply stare at me and tell me to teach them things like “verbs” or “United States English” and listen as I say things to them. At the end, they tell me that they feel they’ve learned a lot.

It’s a very strange experience.

At first, I felt “objectified” in a certain way by my students and by my university. I was literally being asked to simply go around and greet students and my suggestions for lessons and improvements to my schedule were pooh-poohed and deemed irrelevant. At the same time, it’s easy to understand why a native speaker is conferred so much seemingly supernatural and sometimes undeserved power and desirability. The English language is heavily propagandized in Colombia. Every single one of my students, every professor, every person that I met on the street, waiter I spoke to in a restaurant, and taxi driver that drove me to and from the airport could tell me that English was incredibly important and necessary for their career advancement. The issue is that in many cases it simply isn’t necessary, but in a country that has a massive national program for creating a Spanish/English bilingual population it’s very easy to repeat the idea that you’ve been taught since you were a small child.

LauraNative4

(When I am not there, the students at Aguadulce learn English through repetitive translation work. Unfortunately, they sometimes are taught the wrong words. For example, in this translation the word atractivo means sexy instead of attractive. I was very confused why 5th graders were using the word sexy.)

About our special correspondent and senior editor 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

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Learning Through Song – by Tayler Boelk. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Learning Through Song – by Tayler Boelk. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Edmund_Fitzgerald,_1971,_3_of_4_(restored)

[Source of image, see: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edmund_Fitzgerald,_1971,_3_of_4_(restored).jpg]

Everything I learned about the Edmund Fitzgerald, a famous Great Lakes shipwreck, I learned through song. I can tell you how many tons of iron ore was on the ship—about 26,000. I can tell you where they were coming from—Wisconsin,- and where they were going—Cleveland. I can even tell you how many people died when it sank to the bottom of Lake Superior—29.

Song has been, and continues to be, a great method of learning. An excellent example of this is the children’s song “The ABC’s.” In the United States, this is how children learn the basic units of communication. Through song, they learn the letters used to build words for both speaking and writing. Language is an interactive and social process, and music is a natural way for children to experience this process in a pleasurable way. As schooling continues, learning through song remains present. School House Rock and Animaniacs were popular educational television shows that taught the continents, presidents, states and their capitals, parts of speech, and even more universal things such as countries of the world. Some songs are used to encourage cooperation and problem solving. The “Clean-Up Song,” for instance, was a popular one from kindergarten, teaching children that the best way to get work done quickly is to work together. While these are dominantly western examples, the great thing about music is that it spans across the globe.

Music exists in every culture. It varies in style, language, and message, but it is one of the most powerful ways of understanding the differences and similarities of others. It is universal in that music always speaks to the human experience. Even when we listen to music in languages we cannot understand, we receive a lasting impression of the challenges, sorrows, and joys of that culture. It is this emotional experience that really connects a listener with the music. This connection breaks language barriers allowing us to learn about other cultures and from others’ experiences. In addition, the rhythm and patterns of song can help us learn language easier. In a choral setting, I have much experience singing in foreign languages. Most of the learning was done through the active singing of the song. Sure, we learn things via lecture or reading but by simultaneously reading lyrics, hearing them, and actively singing them, we are processing the information in several ways rather than one at a time.

This applies to music in familiar languages by allowing us to quickly memorize the information through use of familiar patterns. You don’t have to be a music prodigy to recognize rhyming schemes or the difference between the chorus and verse. In our everyday experiences of listening to music on the radio, in movies, commercial jingles, or music classes we become familiar with these patterns. Singers and song writers take advantage of these patterns to tell stories or teach lessons. As I mentioned before, everything I know about the Edmund Fitzgerald I learned through song. Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is arguably the source of the ships fame. His song follows many traditional methods of storytelling including foreshadowing, similes, and contains a beginning, middle, and end. While this story could easily be told verbally, by putting it to song and adding additional literary techniques, such as rhyming and alliteration, it becomes instantly more memorable.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a famous German writer, once stated that music is “the language of the heart.” While this is beautiful, I would argue that music is the language of the world. It brings people together from across the globe and helps them understand and enjoy each other’s culture.

Tayler Boelk serves as assistant editor for The North Star Reports.

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

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A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – The Perception of Backpackers – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – The Perception of Backpackers – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Lauraanimals3

I’ll admit it. When I was in high school I often dreamed of taking a post-high-school backpacking trip across Europe. When I was in college I often dreamed of taking a post-college backpacking trip across South America. A lot of people dream of it, a lot of people pin things on Pinterest about it, and, in reality, there are actually quite a few people who actually do it.

As a result of recent dips in ticket prices to Colombia, the tourism industry has experienced a huge boom. And, as a result of the diversity and beauty contained within a small country, many travelers intent on traversing all of South America end up detouring and spending a good chunk of their time in Colombia.

Prior to the holiday season, I wasn’t able to travel throughout Colombia. I met a few backpackers and travelers in La Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota, but Bogota itself isn’t a huge tourist attraction and backpackers especially don’t tend to linger here for long. I did, however, hear a great deal about travelers from professors and students, the individuals with whom I most often discuss cultural perceptions and stereotypes.

When talking to certain students, I was alarmed at the descriptions I was given when I asked them to describe a person from the United States “based on foreigners they have met”. I heard words that are often repeated like “ignorant” and “greedy”, but when the words turned to phrases they confused me.

In particular, one student told me that he hated travelers from the United States. He described them as very “close-minded”, and when I asked him to elaborate on being close-minded he explained that every backpacker from the United States that he had met was never interested in speaking Spanish, interacting with locals, or going places other than those frequented by tourists. He said that many of them only came to Colombia for drug-tourism and partying and didn’t actually care about the country or people.

It was a harsh critique.

I assumed he had had some bad experiences. I didn’t believe it–that is, until I had the opportunity to travel and frequented a few hostels in different cities in Colombia. There are definitely some hostels that are “party-hostels” and there are definitely some hostels that are not “party-hostels”, and the people that I met in each one varied accordingly. However, across the board, I was often disappointed by the attitudes of the fellow estadounidenses (United States-ians) that I met throughout Colombia.

In Medellin, I met countless pre-college or post-college graduates who spent the duration of their time partying at the bar in their hostel, hanging out with other backpackers, and discussing other hostels that they had stayed at. The default language of hostels: English. The default goal of many travelers: party. The more time I’ve spent around people “traveling” through Colombia, the more I’ve come to understand my students’ harsh critique of the estadounidenses that they’ve met.

However, for me, it was the level of Spanish used by other travelers that was the most disappointing. If you’re traveling through Europe, I find it perfectly understandable to not speak the native language of a country. There are so many languages spoken throughout Europe that it would be impossible to expect yourself to learn them all. South America is a different story. With the exception of Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana (countries that are not very popular travel destinations in the first place), Brazil and its Portuguese is the only outlier. Spanish is universal.

Would it hurt to learn a little bit of Spanish?

Time and time again, I’ve met travelers that can’t answer basic questions that are thrown at them again and again. I now understand why, on my “touristy days” otherwise known as my casual-dress days, I suddenly have every street-seller shouting things at me in English.

I often feel like I’m judging my fellow travelers a bit unfairly. I have a different opportunity. I’m living in Colombia for ten months and many of them are spending a week or two exploring a few cities; of course they aren’t going to be able to “connect” with Colombia as much as I can. That being said, the legacy that these travelers leave behind is often awful and has jaded many people’s perceptions of the United States.

When I think back to my study abroad experiences in university, I’m reminded of how many times I was told of my position as a “cultural ambassador”, how often I was reminded to be careful and courteous. I remember I thought it was silly back then, but I often find myself wishing now that other travelers could keep the idea of being cultural ambassadors in mind as they embark on their journeys throughout Colombia.

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

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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

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.

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(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”.

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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.

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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?

Professor: Yes.

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.

emoji4

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

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Learning a New Language — The North Star Reports – by Kathryn Marquis Hirsch. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Learning a New Language — The North Star Reports – by Kathryn Marquis Hirsch. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

KHirsch_language_essay.002

[Photo 1: Russian State Library– largest in the nation and 4th largest in the world. The statue out front is of Dostoevsky.]

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to note that this is our 200th article. A remarkable feat for an all volunteer staff of dedicated student editors and writers. Professor Liang.

As countless many have expressed before, learning other languages not only allows one to converse with more people, it also gives a deeper understanding of other cultures because so much is lost in translation. Spoken language expresses much more than simply noun, verb, tense, and other elements which can be easily translated. (This is why excellent human translators are essential and cannot be replaced by software. Idiomatic speech, nuance, and situational context are largely lost on computers.) To respect the whole of another person or people requires an attempt to understand these elements of language that are less obvious but not insignificant.

In college, I had one professor who insisted that all thoughts are framed in language. All thoughts. Period. Many of my fellow students nodded in ready agreement, or perhaps in the hope our professor would move on, but he would have had better luck convincing a wall than me because I know from my own personal experience as well as from discussions with many others that this is just not true. Some of the thoughts, feelings, and dreams that defy words’ constraints are not only failed by my native English, but are outside of the framework of language. Others, however, are the sort of concepts that “words cannot express,” though it seems like it should be possible if only I could find the right words. One of the great pleasures of learning other languages has been finding such words and terms.

My resistance to my professor’s declaration aside, I do not dispute that languages reflect and influence ways of thinking in an endless circle– this is why they provide an invaluable window into the deeper culture of a people. Certainly my own thoughts have been shaped by English. But a wonderful benefit of learning other languages has been gaining new ways of structuring ideas. From time to time I will learn a concept that exists in Russian or Korean that is so delightfully apt, so perfect, that I wish it existed in English but as it stands it would require paragraphs of explanation or just does not exist at all. It was only possible for me to learn them incrementally, learning vocabulary and grammar and cultural context until I could think in the right steps to lead all the way there.

I do not mean to be a show-off by touting the wondrous expansion of my mind through foreign language study; I imagine those who have lived their entire lives multilingual would find my observations trite. This desire to find the right word is behind the adoption of foreign words found in almost every widely spoken language, and it seems these words or terms are often learned and incorporated rather than translated because they are so suitable just the way they are. Larger concepts are similarly easy to learn and incorporate into one’s thinking, given the foundation to do so. However, I don’t want to minimize the amount of work that I have put into studying other languages, because it does require dedicating one’s effort and time, and I have felt overwhelmed for moments at every stage. People seem to forget what they went through and often ignore what can be observed in young children: learning a language takes years and years of constant work and daily tutoring from every older person around you. It has often been frustrating and humbling, but in spite of starting in my thirties (well past the point where I could hope a nice Russian or Korean couple would adopt me and immerse me in their language), I have been able to progress and I am convinced that this is possible and worthwhile for anyone who wants to learn.

My practical advice would be to mix methods of learning rather than trying to do a strict regimen of only immersion or textbook study. Starting out when you’re older (not a baby), you won’t have time to go through another childhood of learning first to understand then speak then read, and being able to read facilitates the self-study that real progress will require. I’ve found it’s best to take an analytical approach, examining existing habits and ways of thinking about language and comparing these to the language being learned. For example, I think many people whose first language is English are intimidated by the concepts of formal and familiar speech or of masculine and feminine words. But actually, this isn’t entirely foreign to native English speakers. In English, even for a singular “you,” we use “you are” and “you were” instead of the “you is” or “you was” that would fit the overall structure of English. This is counterintuitive and something that native speakers often take some time to pick up on, but by the time we’re older, most of us don’t even realize how irregular it is. Among English speakers, saying “you is” is a common mistake, usually made until the speaker acquires the habit of using plural forms for “you” after of hearing and reading the proper usage. But it’s such a logical mistake to make that no one should beat themselves up over it.

Once you begin to study a different language, it’s not only interesting to see how other languages address these sorts of questions in their system, but also to gain a new perspective on what we do in English and how it works together. I was struck at first by how in Korean, each concept is a root word that is then conjugated into a noun, verb, adverb, or adjective simply by use of the appropriate suffix. It’s really neat and efficient and makes learning vocabulary somewhat easier (in a way). It eventually dawned on me, however, that this isn’t really all that different from what we do in English. Take the word “red” for example- it’s an adjective, right? But in Korean, it would be listed in the dictionary in a form that is at once adjective and noun. “Red” the color: noun. “Red” the attribute: adjective. But in English, it is the same! What does it mean if the apple is red? It exists in a red way. It is in a red state of being. Things can be reddened, or they can redden of their own accord. (Realizations like this please me far too much.)

KHirsch_language_essay.001

[Photo 2: A lighting shop in Russia, has nothing to do with the U.S. president, but an interesting false cognate.]

This all goes back to the time and effort factors in learning a language, which would be hard to overstate. If you are a native English speaker like I am, unaccustomed to masculine/feminine/neutral, that’s okay– if your new language uses this concept, you’ll just learn it. Perhaps more important that dedicating time and energy is a willingness to make mistakes and even to make a fool of oneself from time to time with the inevitable misunderstandings and failures you will experience when it comes to actually using a new language. I accept that I will have to spend the rest of my life trying to improve in Russian and Korean, and that I will never master either language. This is also okay– few people ever do. Decades into daily use, I certainly can’t claim that my English is flawless. I will gladly admire the greatest writers and orators in each language along with everyone else.

Learning new languages is a rewarding and enjoyable show of respect. Of course, it would be impossible for any one person to become conversant, let alone fluent, in the language of every person they’ll ever want to interact with in their lifetime. And knowing another language is unlikely to result in some sort of magical meeting of minds; people who share a native tongue are not of a single mind. But it certainly goes a long way toward understanding, and where it falls short, the effort made demonstrates one’s recognition that others have intellectual value and a willingness and desire to connect.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch serves as the Managing Editor of The North Star Reports and is a JD candidate at The university of Minnesota – Twin Cities Law School.

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, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. 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

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Colombia, Norway, northeastern China, Nicaragua, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, El Salvador, England, Finland, Russia, Cyprus, and Haiti. We also publish student reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

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 by 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

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Tanzania, Kenya, United States, Europe — on being quadrilingual — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Eli Megahan

A

Tanzania, Kenya, United States, Europe — on being quadrilingual — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Eli Megahan

Being quadrilingual means that much of my education in language has come from being self-motivated and self-taught. A common misconception is that I’ve learned to speak English, Kiswahili, Setswana and Kalanga in attempts to appear more worldly or cultured. I don’t speak four languages out of a desire to be worldly, but out of necessity. At one stage in my life I was quite envious of those for whom one language is enough. Now, however, I embrace my need to speak four languages.

To this very day I can vaguely remember the orphanage. At seventeen months and sixteen pounds I did not like the look or feel of the world; I found it too visually unappealing for my liking, too upright, twisted and evil for me to invest any hopes in it. Thus, my initial enthusiasm for literature stemmed from a desire to see the world, not as it was, but rather as I believed it ought to have been.

My first seven years were spent in Mwanza, Tanzania, my motherland. The first language I learned to speak was, naturally, Kiswahili. It was the only language spoken both at home and at school. I found that academia, particularly literature, came naturally to me. My peers wrote words, I wrote sentences. While they read paragraphs, I read books. My teacher was so impressed with my progress that she suggested I be promoted to Standard Three to which my mother agreed. Although I did exceptionally well academically, socially I struggled. Being in a classroom with classmates who were three to five years my senior proved challenging. They interacted in a way I was not accustomed to and used a vernacular completely foreign to me. It was a miserable existence.

B

At the age of eight, I left Mwanza and relocated to rural Kenya where I remained for several years. It did not take long for me to become proficient in the local language, Samburu. Although unaware of the fact prior to relocating, we found that Samburu was far from an ideal place to spend one’s childhood. The quality of education was poor as a majority of teachers were uneducated themselves. Furthermore, Samburu was in the midst of a violent war against several neighbors. It was not uncommon to dodge bullets and explosives to and from school. Rather than being anxiety-ridden, my friends and I turned it into a game; whoever could run home the fastest and remain unscathed was crowned victor. Whilst living in Samburu, I was presented with the opportunity to study abroad in the United States of America. I entered a government-sponsored program meant to improve fluency in the English language, a language of which I spoke only three words: ‘hello’ and ‘thank you.’ Prior to this opportunity I had never had a reason to learn English. Whilst my parents were English-speaking Americans, they spoke both Kiswahili and Samburu fluently; the reasons to learn English had simply never presented themselves. Motivated, however, I continued to attend the local village school during the day and made an effort to study in the evenings. Like running water and motor vehicles, electricity was a nonentity in the community of Ngilai. I spent much of my time by a kerosene lantern reading books and newspaper articles I had purchased on bimonthly excursions to Nairobi. Slowly but surely, I saw my hard work and determination come to fruition.

I found works written in English to be of a more fantastical nature. Unlike the dry textbooks and news articles available to me in Kiswahili and Samburu, English literature transported me to lands of which I knew nothing. Favorites ranged from the Maurice Sendak classic Where the Wild Things Are to Lois Lowry’s The Giver. These works provided a means of envisioning an alternate reality for myself, one in which I did not fear for my life.

Nine years ago, I first set foot in the United States of America. I remember very clearly the day the airplane tickets arrived. My mother and I sat at the foot of my bed staring at the bits of paper in joyous disbelief. That night I slept in an empty bedroom knowing that my next sleep would be in a different country. This feeling is one that remains as clear to me as if it happened last night. Knowing that with my hands, eyes, and heart I possessed the power to not only open a book, but the ability to make sense of the letters on any given page brought me more joy than I had ever imagined. I fancied myself something bulletproof, something that could not and would not be broken.

C

I found the schooling environment in Duncanville, Texas to be starkly different from what I had grown accustomed to. In both Tanzania and Kenya, pupils did not speak until spoken to, we did not take our seats until invited to do so. This meant that should the stars have not aligned for an instructor on any given day, there was the chance we would remain standing for a two-hour class period. When a member of the staff, prefect body, or janitorial department approached in the corridors, students were expected to stop walking, align themselves with the left side of the wall and wait for the higher-up to pass, only going about their business once the superior was no longer in sight. We were not rewarded for achieving an A grade; it was expected that we did so. Three consecutive B grades in any given subject would result in suspension. It took me all of the two years I spent in Duncanville, Texas to become accustomed to this example of the American educational system. A system in which the pupils seemed to be handed free rein, in which they barked back at teachers, lashed out at fellow classmates, and openly displayed little to no concern or desire for academic excellence.

Although I had perfected the American accent, I had not learned conversational sentence structure or colloquial vocabulary. Much of my speech sounded derived from a textbook. At the time this frustrated me to no end, but in hindsight, this was quite humorous. While peers were perplexed, teachers and other figures of authority were impressed more often than not.

Following a year in Duncanville, now thirteen years old, I found myself in Francistown, Botswana. As with Kiswahili, I became fluent in both Setswana and Kalanga in little time. I attended a school which was one of two high schools and the only private institution in the country. At John Mackenzie Secondary School I specialized in Accounting, Art, Business Studies, English Literature, English Language and History. Although these courses developed my analytical and theoretical skills while simultaneously challenging my more creative side, I struggled to think of an occupation that would marry all these loves.

Although I finished high school in two years, at fifteen years I was deemed too young to attend university. Uncertain as to what it was I wanted to study, I traveled for three years with Botswana as a base. I studied in France, Italy, Australia, and Hawaii. Through these travels I discovered that media communications was my calling. The very prospect of exploring the field in-depth excited me. Ultimately, I reasoned that pursuing higher education would provide me with the experience and knowledge I needed to become employed in the Advertising and Marketing industry, which remains my goal. I applied to Webster University, a university well known for its Advertising program, and am currently enrolled in the School of Communications as an Advertising and Marketing Communications major.

To this day I am not completely confident in my ability to articulate thoughts and emotions in the English language. I choose words wisely, all the while in silent prayer, terrified my words will be misunderstood or misconstrued. It is a feeling likely to stay with me for the remainder of my existence. I remind myself I am far better off than I was and that somehow my dreams have already broken the boundaries of my fears.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU

For all of the North Star Reports, see http://NorthStarReports.org

The North Star Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. 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

The North Star Reports will share brief dispatches from our student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang