Pinky

…And The Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain…

Loved those guys when I was little.

Tonight, I was talking with my brother (the neuroscience one) about how language and math show up in the brain, specifically grammar and foreign language for the language stuff, and then algebra for the math stuff.

It turns out that, the algebra shows up with lights all over the brain, whenever we do it.

Language understanding and production are from specific, individual areas that interact with one another.

And the functional parts of language (think syntax) actually work more like the algebra does in the brain, with lights all over the place.

And so, it makes perfect sense that languages have seemed to me to be the same thing as algebra – I have always referred to them as math, and in various ways, and that is exactly how I see them in my head.

We even talked about how, algebraically, I personally see sentence structure across the languages.

Basically, we turned my nerdy question into an even nerdier conversation, and it was awesome.

Now, I know that I definitely want to see a brain lighting pattern test of my brain, especially around math and languages and grammar!

Post-a-day 2020

Toy Story for all languages

Playing on Duolingo, I crossed the following today:

Turns out Woody can exist in Italian, not just English…, but he is awfully proper-sounding in Italian, though I do say so myself. 😛

Whatever the case, I am looking forward to all of the fabulous images that are already forming in my mind of an Italian Woody (not unlike the changes that occurred for Buzz, when his Spanish version was enabled!)… yess… entertaining it shall be. 😂

Post-a-day 2020

My real voice

In college, I spent a summer studying in Germany.  It was a language school setup, filled with foreigners, but in such a small town that everyone knew that we were studying German, and so everyone always spoke to us all in German.  I had already studied abroad a few times before this adventure, and I had learned firsthand about what works and what doesn’t work, in terms of language immersion.  I was dedicated to learning German, and so I made sure that I only spoke in German with others, even if they spoke to me in English.  This made friendships hard among the people in my program’s group, since they all used English together; I came across a bit snobby, but I was just really committed to learning German.

I made friends with other foreigners rather easily, though, and especially ones in higher levels of German, which was even better for me.  My German was improving immensely.  But this led to a unique situation one day.

One day, near the end of either my time at the school or my friend Paul’s time there (he’s British), I found myself faced with a desperate Paul, actually begging me to speak English.  Why?! was my repeated question to his pleas.

“Because I want to hear what you sound like!”

I don’t know if he was pleased or not by how I sound in English, but I spoke a little for him.  And it was way weird, using English with him, despite the fact that I’d heard him speak English loads, and that it’s our common native language.  I had just never used it with him.

And then this brought up a unique and interesting sentiment.  He wanted to hear me, and that meant speaking English.  I can guess that my native tongue was the one in which Paul believed my identity to lie.  I know that it felt like I was setting aside a sort of mask when I switched to English with him.  I even felt a little called-out… as though I had been hiding somehow, and it had been behind German.  The real me (I) lay in English, in the English part of me.

Yet, years later, here I am, missing the parts of me that belong to these different languages in which I have lived.  A part of me, true me (I), exists only on German, and others in French, in Spanish, and in Japanese. So much so that the real me (I) is this whole combination of languages – I feel a huge emptiness and feel not myself when I am using only English in my daily life.  I listen to Spanish-speaking radio when I’m in Houston, mostly because I don’t get to use Spanish often enough.  I read every night in French, and trade off an English book for a German one at times for my evening reading, too.  I regularly pull out a Spanish book to read, or my German audiobooks.  And I have noticed that I have been searching for a tolerably satisfying way to have Japanese in my near-daily life, too.  (For now, it has just been the occasional music, and a perpetual repeat of a certain song being stuck in my head.)  When I don’t have them all, it is as though a part of me is missing, and suddenly getting to speak with someone in them, almost reminds me of that mask I was setting aside in Germany with Paul… like I am again setting aside some mask I have been wearing.

Perhaps it is now a mask of monolingualism, pretending that I only speak English, while I long for the world to talk to me in several languages, all the time.

Anyway… I’m exhausted.  And I miss Paul.  He was studying opera, and was a really great guy.  I wonder if he’s been really successful with opera these past several years.  Maybe I can go see him perform one day.  That would be awesome.  🙂

Post-a-day 2017

Normal or normal?

I guess that whatever we are accustomed to having around us, ends up being what feels like “normal” to us.  Like how my life never seems to feel very exciting or special – it has become my experience of “normal”, and therefore can’t seem exceedingly exciting or abnormal to me.  

I regularly feel as though everyone can speak loads of languages, and so I’m nothing but average (or even below average) in that field.  But who are my acquaintances?  Well, we tend to end up spending time with people who, in some way or other, are quite similar to ourselves, do we not?  It is no wonder, then, that I have so many friends who are bi- and multilingual, and who have not only visited but lived in at least one country other than their own.  This isn’t to say, of course, that all of my friends meet this criteria.  Certainly not.  I just happen to have a lot of friends who do.

So, when I have a night like tonight, where my friends and I sound to an on-listener like we can’t seem to pick a language, as we constantly switch around between English (our one common language), French, and Japanese, I all too easily forget that this is not normal in the world.  Sure, it is normal for me and for my life, but that doesn’t mean that everyone does it regularly.  It doesn’t even mean that half the world could do it regularly, even if they wanted to do so.

Or perhaps they could.  I think, nonetheless, that I severely underappreciate my language abilities, by subconsciously expecting that the people who most closely surround me are an average sample of the whole.  What is normal for one person simply is what is around that person in life.  And two people with closely aligned lives might find the same things as one another to be normal.  So, of course the people who are out doing the same things I live to do, tend to see the world in a similar way to how I see it, and hold a subconscious standard of “normal” that is similar to my own.  That’s why our paths cross in the first place – we’re all into* this particular kind of awesome.

Filing a room with awesome people doesn’t mean that they aren’t all still awesome, just because the standard in the room is about equal.  It just means that you have an extra-awesome room that is full of a ton of awesome people.

I guess what I am aiming to say here is that, despite my feeling below-average and utterly “normal” and boring at times, I realize now that I am not viewing things outside of my nearest surroundings (so to speak), and that I realize that I am, in fact, awesome.  And I’m proud and happy about that.

Peace, y’all. ❤
Post-a-day 2017