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French in France

Sun 15 March 2009

Another week, another essay, also another extremely busy week at work and gladness that there was no quiz this week. This time, we wrote about our experiences trying to learn another language. I compared my two years of high school French to my several weeks in France:

I took a long trip to Europe a few years ago (several months) and spent a lot of that time in France. During my time there, I took several classes in French in order to better learn the language. One of those classes was in a countryside town in the south where groups of people from different parts of Europe came to learn French (Spain, Ireland, Switzerland and Denmark, from what I recall). One thing that struck me at the time was that different groups of people had different difficulties in pronouncing French words. This was so common that the school purposely broke up the class into groups based on their native language. Americans got special instruction on certain phonemes, the Danish had special instruction on others, etc. This experience also highlighted for me just how little I learned during my two years of high school French - which I passed with decent grades (B’s or A’s, can’t remember exactly). From what I recall, it was taken as a given that nobody was going to learn how to actually speak French from the class. It was almost a joke. Going to class everyday was an exercise in making funny sounds that didn’t mean anything and memorizing information for quizzes and tests that you would immediately forget afterwards. Looking back, I think of it now as more of a waste of time. I learned a lot more when I was in France because I was surrounded by the language everyday, in both spoken and written forms. It got to the point where I got tired of speaking it and it was a relief to speak English (usually with the Irish kids, so I wouldn’t say it was exactly what we in America would call “English” either, but it was close enough). However, I learned it pretty well for the relatively short time I was there.


Mon 09 March 2009

We’re in week eight of my class, with three homework assignments and two quizzes to go. So far, I’m getting an A, with 69 out of 72 possible points. The big question for me now is whether or not to continue taking classes. There is another extensions course at UCLA offered this spring that I can take (World Languages). I need to decide in the next couple of weeks, I guess. The class is fun and I like the subject so I guess it won’t hurt anything to take it. It’s not a waste of time because I enjoy the process and I can afford the fee, so I might as well. The main opportunity cost is anything else I may be have to skip out on because of lack of free time.

No Quiz this Week

Sat 07 March 2009

I’m pretty glad there was no quiz this week. My work schedule was just crazy, and I’m not even done yet. I should probably do some work this weekend in order to get a little bit ahead. I basically slacked off on my studies, but still got caught up tonight. The homework was not too difficult although the reading got a little more detailed than I was willing to take in. Langage comparisons are cool, but they take some concentration which I didn’t have enough to spare this week.

Austronesian Languages

Wed 04 March 2009

This week’s essay, on language change:

The language family that interested me the most was the Austronesian family, a group of languages that originated from Taiwan and from there spread across both the Pacific and Indian oceans, eventually spanning from Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, to Easter Island, almost to South America. The spread of this family of languages parallels an amazing migration of human beings across vast stretches of ocean, using seacraft that would be considered little more than rafts in our time. As these people moved across the world, they brought with them their language and culture to many isolated locations in the middle of the sea. There are several interesting popular works of fiction that dramatize these events. A movie called “Rapa Nui” is a story about the demise of civilization on Easter Island. The book “Hawaii” by James Michener contains a long prologue that describes how the islands of Hawaii were discovered by explorers from the distant islands of Tahiti. (A lot of people stop reading the book after finishing the prologue as they find it more compelling than the main story.)

Baybayin – A Writing System

Fri 27 February 2009

I wrote my essay about writing systems on Baybayin, the script in use by the Tagalogs when the Spanish came:

Baybayin is a writing system that was in use by the Tagalogs in the Philippines when the Spaniards colonized the area. It is a syllabic writing system, meaning that each symbol represents a syllable. The base symbol represents a syllable ending with an ‘a’ sound. Modifiers, called kudlit, could be added to the symbol to change the vowel sound from an ‘a’ to an ‘e’ or ‘i’ (when placed above) or to an ‘o’ or ‘u’ (when placed below). (The Tagalog speech does not make much distinction, if any, between ‘e’ and ‘i’. It also does not make much distinction between ‘o’ or ‘u’.) Knowledge of how baybayin was used is incomplete. Baybayin seems to be an insufficient system for representing Tagalog. The rules are such that only CV syllables can be written even though Tagalog allows for more complex syllable structures (e.g. CCV, CVC, etc.) A Spanish priest was known to have added an additional modifier to the system to allow for trailing vowels, thus allowing CVC type syllables. Works in baybayin have not survived the ages, partly due to the tropical climate that caused written works to rot, partly due to the active efforts of the Spanish to remove the ancient script in favor of a Roman-based alphabet. By the 17th century, baybayin had been replaced.

These essays are really not that hard. It makes me wonder what the heck is wrong with that one girl in my class who just seems to be cutting and pasting her entries from Wikipedia. Everybody else seems to be actually writing their own stuff.

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