3004 廚房

3004 廚房
為保障病人隱私,作者於心理學隨筆內並沒有在未經客戶的同意下,放置任何病患的真實故事,所有包含心理治療的故事內容都已經改編,忌對號入座。另外,本人不能在網上隔空治療,所以本網站並不提供任何形式的心理諮詢服務,如有需要,請到醫院或診所求診,敬請留意。All the psychotherapy stories are written in ways to protect clients' confidentiality and privacy rights. NO real and identifiable clients' stories are shared on this website without their permission. No psychotherapy consultation will be provided on this website. Please do see your local provider for any psychological consultation.

2010年9月11日 星期六

My Language Barrier

I had a fantastic class with my IDLS 395 students last Thursday, discussing language and diversity. We talked about how language shapes our thinking, situating in an environment where English is no longer the language that people speak and the associated emotions and reactions...etc. I am very proud of my students who demonstrated self awareness and discussed diversity issues in a mature manner. We also watched Asian you tube videos despite a lot of us didn't know the language at all- Korean, Mandarin and Thai!  Although students did not have any clue about the language, they were able to capture some of the universal messages in the videos. Fascinating! Honey K told me that language only accounts for 25% of the human communication process according to research.  We very much rely on other cues as we communicate with people, including nonverbal cues, gestures, pointing and facial expression.  As an instructor of the class, my goal is not to only address differences in between people from different cultures, but also similarities. Social Psychology research tells us similarities increase liking, isn't it?

One thing that we didn't talk much about is the privilege associated with language, which I think is a rather important topic. However, class was so short, especially when you had a group of active participants.  Going back to my point, a lot of time we are so taken for granted that people should understand me or this person should be able to speak better accent than that. Well, coming from a different country, speaking and writing in a different language, I find it always difficult to express myself in English. It is challenging as it requires more brain energy and time.

Growing up, I ALWAYS HOPE I CAN SPEAK REALLY FLUENT ENGLISH. People around me told me that if you cannot master English, it would be very hard to find a job. This is somehow true. In addition, there are always people out there who tease people who cannot pronounce certain words or think a person speak in an accent or write broken English with a lot of grammatical errors...etc. We have to acknowledge that there is privilege associated with fluent English speakers. We are privileged to be able to communicate with this language.

I have my own language barrier. My mother tongue is Cantonese but no one here in Harrisonburg really speaks this dialect. I am capable to speak in both English and Mandarin. However, there are times that people might not understand me because I don't know the vocabularies or that I speak with an accent. There are also moments that I feel so embarrassed as I have no idea what the person is talking about. Sometimes, I just cannot follow if the person uses slang or big words. However, I am also very fortunate. I have a cohort who are willing to teach me English through interactions. They allow my ignorance and they are willing to explain to me what's behind the words. You can never imagine how many English vocabularies I have learned from my cohort and through my interactions with students. For example, Kimberly explained to me what's the meaning of  "cranky"? Adam and Mark corrected my pronunciation of "herbs/herbal", Vesna introduced "Quinoa" and Ashley always asked me if I understand something or not. She will just elaborate for me...etc. Of course, I think my students are just great that they never laugh at me when I mispronounce something.

As for Mandarin, I have been speaking the language since I met Honey K in New York 3 years ago. I still remember those times when we couldn't understand each other-we had to write on each other's hand to communicate. (We both write Chinese but speak different dialect). To be honest, at times, I feel frustrated because he can't understand me due to my poor mandarin or I can't understand his sentences. However, he always corrects my pronunciation and at the same time be very patient with my mistakes. Now he is learning some Cantonese as well and I laugh all the time whenever he speaks it. (Twelve dragons go to picnic is the Cantonese song that I love him singing to me).

How wonderful and fortunate that I have a group of people who can tolerate my language barriers! These seem to be small things and no big deal, perhaps you would think. Yet, these small things change the life of a Chinese young woman and her perception of the world.  She knows now what is being cranky, how to pronounce herb and quinoa and not being afraid to ask questions when she doesn't understand. More, she learns to tell others not to be afraid to ask when they don't understand.

I speak with an accent but so does everyone else.

18 則留言:

  1. What a beautiful account of your experience, Phoebe! Thank you for sharing it. I would love to have you guest instruct a session of my second language acquisition class this spring. We address power and privilege in linguistics and your participation would be a rich addition.

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  2. I remember the song "Twelve dragons go to picnic", but I thought it was twelve dinosaurs... haha

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  3. Thank you for sharing your experience with us Phoebe! As an American-born Chinese, I have similar yet different issues. We should write a book together about our experiences, you and me =)

    I'm so glad that you appreciate the English language and are not afraid to learn from others around you. I actually wish I could speak better Cantonese and I wish I knew how to speak any Mandarin! And forget about reading and writing Chinese; I'm illiterate =P So I think you have an advantage over many English-speakers, in that you are fluent in multiple languages. This skill comes in handy when you're hunting for jobs (trust me).

    I want to point out that your last sentence is my favorite sentence. "I speak with an accent but so does everyone else." It is so simple and straightforward, but delivers such a powerful and clear message.

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  4. hey,i wanna take ur class :(

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  5. ‎"It's not because I speak with an accent that I think with an accent." -From the movie: A Walk Through Clouds-

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  6. It's not ease to understand the actual/ hidden meaning of words even the "fluency" level of a lauguage is ver high.

    Take HK Cantonese as e.g. : 你老細 (腦細) , 純粹租房 (色情場所), 村長個女 (你愛)

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  7. Dezirae N. Brown:
    I know exactly how you feel. Although I am a native English Speaker, my peers in my neighborhood never spoke actual English. I live in a predominantly Black neighborhood. They are all about using slang terms. Transfering from a private school where correct grammar was of great importance to a public school where slang was of the norm was quite frustrating. Majority of the student body was Black and they barely spoke common English at all. Instead, slang terminology and abbreviations had taken over. Because I was viewed as Black, I was supposed to know such terminology. Most of the time I was made fun of, given dirty looks, and dubbed snobbish/snooty. Luckily, that same year I gained friends who explained such terminology. Although I never used it, mainly because my pronunciation was off and it just didn't feel right, it was still good to be able to understand. I am one who will always value grammatically correct English, NEVER SLANG!!! Here is a list of some of the terms I learned freshman year of high school:

    jank - basically any object
    wellin - lieing
    stole - just been proven wrong
    beat them janks - sexual term
    clock you - will beat you up
    phew - a male camrade
    boo lovin - the action of crushing on someone in public

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  8. "Language barriers can be hard things to overcome. In a native vs. foreign speaker situation, it's frustrating for both parties. The foreign speaker is trying to remember their vocabulary and grammar at the same time. The native speaker is trying to piece together the words the foreign speaker is saying and trying to translate it into the usual format of their language. Regardless, both parties grow frustrated with trying to communicate their ideas. I am a native American-English speaker, so I haven't had as many major conflicts with my language yet. But I have been on both sides of the previously mentioned scenario. I've tried to understand people who are new to speaking English, and it is difficult. But it is also EXTREMELY rewarding to feel like I'm teaching something about my language, and to see the classic "lightbulb go off" expression when they
    make the connection between the word and the meaning. It's a very rewarding experience. On the other hand, I've tried to learn a couple of languages. I've had 3 years of high school Spanish, while studying a few phrases of Japanese and Korean. Whenever I've tried to communicate using these languages with fluent speakers, I always end up feeling extremely inferior and find myself growing embarrassed with any phrase I attempt to say. Though my lack of knowledge in these languages has ironically made me competitively excited to continue pursuing them! :) -Lisa"

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  9. Dezirae, we missed you in class. I hope you were there to share with us your experience. Thank you for sharing with us your acquisition of slang. I am sure that you have a lot to share with us too in the classroom. I am very looking forward to hear more from you : ). Good job.

    Lisa, it is very encouraging for me to know that you gain satisfaction while you are teaching the others some of the words. Great reflection on your experience.

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  10. Phoebe, you are absolutely right...it should be twelve dinosaurs...My translation is poor and how meanings get lost in translation. Do you still remember how to sing that song?

    David, I welcome you to my class!!!

    Thomas, I love the quote. It is a good one. I just post all of your comments on my blog, so students can see them as well.

    Eva, thanks for sharing with me your thoughts as well. I think writing is such a powerful way to express our feelings in regards to our experience. And a wonderful way to communicate!

    Kristen, it will be my great pleasure to be in class with you and discuss with students about second language acquisition. We definitely can talk more about that. I am so looking forward to spring already

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  11. KaYoung Ryoo Phoebe, your English is amazing =) ♥

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  12. I have been trying very hard to improve my accent since the 1st time I come to Aus as an exchange student, but actually each person has their own accent anyway. Like your passage a lot. thanks for sharing

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  13. Thank you Irma and KaYong. I wasn't expecting that much of comments on this blog, partly because it was in English. I am glad that you guys like it! My pleasure to share with you all.

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  14. -Andrew
    I can understand where you are coming from because I have been in the same situation. Moving to Brazil and not speaking a word of Portuguese was tough. When I started learning how to speak Portuguese, however, it was nice to see that the Brazilians appreciated the fact that I was making an effort. Learning a new language from scratch can be very difficult, especially when they are two completely different languages such as Chinese and English. English is a hard language to learn. I still have trouble writing papers because of all of the grammatical rules. There are language barriers in the same country. For example, in South Carolina they speak with accents and combine words and in Florida, Spanish words come up in phrases. I have not traveled to the west coast yet, but cannot wait to hear what they say differently. Hearing others' stories about how they learned different languages and how they overcome the so called "language barrier" intrigues me because I know what they mean.

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  15. Andrew, thanks for always sharing your experience with us. I can imagine how frightening the experience could be moving to a new place and not speaking the language at all. You may want to share with us how you acquire the language in Brazil later on.

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  16. If you want your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (even if they're dating somebody else now) you must watch this video
    right away...

    (VIDEO) Why your ex will NEVER get back...

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