I Just Got BLOCKED!

Last week was one of the busiest weeks in my existence. I was bombarded with a mountain of papers, a queue of deadlines, and a reservoir of things-to-do. Despite these, I was still able to sneak out and log on to one of my favorite social networking sites: Twitter.

It was March 2, Saturday (a day after my birthday). I paused for a while from checking my students’ quizzes and signed in to twitter. It would really be my habit to scroll down and down my timeline to check the tweets of those whom I had been following. Suddenly, a certain tweet struck me so much. She tweeted one, foul, Bisaya word. Because of my astonishment, I replied, “What??” Few minutes later, I wondered why my “following” and “followers” were decreased by one. I even tweeted, “Did someone deactivate his/her account or just block me? :o”

After that tweet, I just ignored everything. I continued checking some papers and watched the UAAP Volleyball Finals on TV. But, when I was trying to figure out who deactivated his/her account or who blocked me, a sudden intuition came in my mind. So, I went to her profile, checked her tweets, and then I realized she had just blocked me. She even had some series of tweets saying that she blocked me, etc. Because of what I found out, I tweeted,

tsk

That short incident has brought me to a great shock! Actually, whenever I remember what she did, I just can’t help but feel a little upset about it. I’m not furious because I lost a follower, not that. But, I feel that rage because imagine, a Grade 4 girl uttered such nasty word online? Questions were rushing in my mind whenever I think about it. Does she know what she was saying? Does she feel proud that she is saying such words? Do her parents know about what she has been saying online? Does her family know about her actions or speech? I don’t know. I really don’t know. But, I, as a teacher, feel so sad for her. Even if she has never been my pupil in my previous workplace, I know her. She is talented, confident, and intelligent. She is actually an honor student. The fact that she is known due to her talents and intelligence dismays me. A lot. Call me overacting, but I really hate people, especially YOUNG people who keep on cursing. I admit though that I am not perfect. I sometimes utter something defiling; however, I am trying my very best not to say anything obnoxious anymore. Besides, as far as I could remember, when I was a child, even saying the word ‘crazy’ in vernacular was like a mortal sin! Maybe, that tweet was one of the best examples of the saying “Language evolves.” *Sigh!*

They say that Twitter or any social networking site is a person’s outlet of his or her happiness, excitement, sadness, and/or anger.  In spite of, I hope that people will be responsible enough with whatever they do or say (or tweet for that matter). I know there is Freedom of Expression, too. However, are we still expressing such freedom as how it is supposed to be expressed? I’m not cleaning my hands here nor pinpointing someone else’s doings. It is just that we have to be extra careful with our words and actions. If others would find you corny if you say good words, disregard them. It’s not your loss if they treat you that way. Besides, we are here on earth not to please anyone. We are to please and praise God.

Matthew 15:18 (http://pinterest.com/pin/274860383479171211/)

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It’s RUDYLEN! :)

Rudelyn, Rodelyn, or Rhudelyn? Well, NONE of the above.

My name is often misspelled—way back when I was in grade school until now. I don’t know what is with my name that it gets misspelled often. I am Rudylen, so it is R-U-D-Y-L-E-N.

My name is…

To be honest, there were times that I tend to dislike my name. When I was still in my elementary years, whenever I was asked about my name, sometimes, I found it difficult to pronounce my name. I could not even give them my nickname because my nickname was “Lyn-Lyn”, and that was how my neighbors called me. That nickname, too, for me, was not good to listen to. It sounded childish (for me). Going back to my name, I really had a hard time enunciating my name before. I was not sure how it was supposed to be pronounced because even at home, my parents would not call me with such name. They called me (and even still call me) “Ate” because I’m the eldest child and the only daughter. So, I was extremely puzzled with my name and its pronunciation.

Until I reached Grade Six. I could vividly remember how my Grade 6 English teacher had difficulty in saying my name. It was English time when our English teacher called me for an oral recitation. She had a hard time pronouncing my name. After several tries of saying my name, finally, she said “Rudylen” (roo-di-len). By that time, I used that pronunciation for my name. LOL 😀

By the way, you might wonder why I was named Rudylen. Simple. Because my father’s name is Rudy. But, no. My mother’s name is not Len, OK? They only added “Len” to my name, so it would be meant for a girl. I know you might find this funny. Don’t worry. I found it funny, too.

What if I were given the chance to change my name, would I? Before, I would really say a big YES! I even used to scribble down pretty names on a paper or in my notebook before. However, now, despite how peculiar my name is, it is still my name. I was born as Rudylen. I was baptized as Rudylen. I was known as Rudylen. Though I have been known also with my other names—like Ate, LenLyn-Lyn, or Rhudz—these names are above all from my real name: Rudylen.

So, it’s Rudylen. No other else. 🙂

“Cross-cultural Communication to Miscommunication?”

Do you ever have trouble communicating to people of another culture?

Any of us may travel or meet travelers. We may work with members of other cultural groups. We may converse with them from time to time. And even, we may learn a foreign language. To be aware of issues in cross-cultural communication is becoming increasingly important. Thus, such situations inevitably bring us into contact with other ways of speaking, other modes of behavior and other views of life.

Communication across cultures or cross-cultural communication looks at how people from differing cultural backgrounds communicate, in similar and different ways among themselves, and how they endeavor to communicate across cultures. With these, communication across cultures can be affected by participants’ interpretations, assumptions and expectations which largely derive from their own cultural background. Cross-cultural communication also functions at the various levels of words, grammar, and pronunciation and at the less obvious levels of discourse patterns, sociolinguistics uses of language and levels involving cultural presuppositions. Hence, cross-cultural communication often involves difficulties but fundamentally it should be viewed as an opportunity for learning and development.

As stated by Dr. Orlando Taylor (1990), in culturally diverse communities, like educative communities, differences may be expected to exist in the communication styles of students, teachers, parents, administrators and non-instructional staff. Perhaps the most important reason for educators to understand cross cultural communication is to improve their relations with the diverse groups of students and parents they will encounter. If left ignored, communication differences will inevitably lead to various types of miscommunication which may lead, in turn, to conflicts which erode school climate and cause certain groups of to feel unwelcome.

According to Dr. Marin Cortazzi (1996), in situations of cross-cultural communication, it is not only what happens or what is said that is important; it is how participants interpret the interaction which ultimately counts. It is this interpretation which guides our perception of meaning and our memory of other people. Most of us draw conclusions about others from what they say, or rather from what we think they mean. The gap between what we think other mean and what they intend to say can occur in any communication. This gap is often wider in cross-cultural contexts or situations. This is evident when there is lack of knowledge of the common language of communication, say English, which be a second or foreign language to one or both sides. Less obviously, the gap is often wider because in intercultural communication, participants may not realize that they are using language in different ways which go beyond purely linguistic competence. Our consideration of cross-cultural communication needs to include: discourse competence in which conversations or texts may be structured using different principles; sociolinguistic competence in which language users may draw on differing ideas about who may speak to whom, on what sorts of topics, on what kinds of occasion, in what manner and for what purposes; cultural competence in which cultural norms and beliefs are used to interpret actions and language behavior and to attribute values and interpretations to interaction. The problem is that our own perception of these aspects of language use is influenced by our own cultural background. It is all too easy to be unconsciously ethnocentric about such matters and to assume that our way is normal, logical or better than those ways used by speakers who come from other cultural backgrounds.

In many instances of cross-cultural communication it is important to understand the cultural presuppositions which lie behind speakers’ words and their expectations and interpretations. For instance, a Chinese student (C) asks a British person (B) for help.

C:  Can you help me?

B: I would like to help you….but I’m afraid I can’t because….

When C heard the first words, she was very happy, believing she would get help; when she heard the second phrase, she was very disappointed. She thought, ‘Why did you raise my hopes and then let me down?’ She concluded that B was hypocritical. It would help if she understood the cultural presuppositions that B is using: first, to show good will and kindness by saying he would like to help, then moving to the main point that he cannot help before explaining why not. A Chinese speaker would probably give the reasons for not helping first before concluding that it was impossible: this would prepare the hearer for the bad news.

Many Chinese and Latin Americans respond to personal invitations by accepting to come, but when the day arrives they may not turn up. This has left many British and North American hosts puzzled, thinking: why did they promise to come, and then break their promises? Can they be trusted? But this interpretation misses the Chinese or Latin American cultural presupposition behind their reply: it is better to show good will, by accepting and perhaps not go, than to refuse and bring immediate disappointment to the potential host. This shows regard for the hosts face, and for that of the person invited, who does not have to provide an excuse for refusing the invitation. Thus, the Chinese and Latin Americans in this situation base their reply on social values, while the British and North Americans put truth values first. If this is understood, the situation becomes easier on both sides, although there will still be further variation depending on whether the invitation is by telephone, letter, or face to face, on whether it is a group invitation and how well the people know each other.

The abovementioned situations merely involved lack of cultural competence. Fundamentally, relevant cultural presuppositions relate to how members of a culture view the world, how they think about human nature, time, space and society. Also crucial are the balance between individual and social identity, the role of language in social relations and getting things done, and how concepts of politeness and face are realized in interaction. Probably all of these are important in all cultures, but the nature and emphasis of each may vary.

 

References:

Cortazzi, M. (1996).   Cross   cultural   communication   a   foreign   language   perspective.   The Fountain. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://www.fountainmagazine.com/article.php?ARTICLEID=353

Taylor, O. L. (1990).  Using   cross  cultural  communication  to  improve  relationships.  Cross-Cultural Communication: An Essential Dimension of Effective Education Revised Edition. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://www.maec.org/cross/5.html

 

Is Language Acquired or Learned?

“Ma-ma!”

When I first heard my nephew babbled this word when he was about 6 or 7 months old, I felt so happy and excited. I was happy because my nephew was slowly developing his talking skills and I was also excited to wait for the time that my nephew would be able to utter “Tita” finally. I may not his mother though, but for me, listening to my first ever nephew is like a gift you have always been wanting for. Nevertheless, my nephew’s gradual development of his utterances is a gratifying experience for him and for us.

Upon recalling those days that my nephew and even my cousins when they were still young had started mumbling some words, I just couldn’t help but ask myself about some things that often confuse me. How were they able to mention or utter some short “words”? Were they taught? Did they learn those from the people in their environment? Were those utterances already naturally acquired by them? Is it really learned or is it acquired?

The abovementioned questions simply open our minds for us to know whether language is really acquired or learned, biologically or environmentally-determined, or natural or nurtured. Several researchers have conducted researches, studies, experimentations and the like to delve on contrasting issues such as stated above. Regardless of numerous studies conducted, people especially students and others who are into the linguistic field are still confused as to which side we should believe to. As a matter of fact, even I was (or maybe ‘am’) quite confused whether language is really “nature or nurture”. Hence, which side am I really into?

Controversy does arise, however, when one tries to examine the extent of genetic influence on human behavior. Just how many of our abilities and shortcomings are innate in nature, and how many are acquired through our interactions with the environment? This debate has been going on for centuries, and popular attitudes have varied greatly throughout this time. At one extreme, we have John Locke’s idea of “tabula rasa,” which proposes that the minds of newborn infants are blank slates that will be differentiated and altered only through sensory experience. Modern biological determinism represents the other extreme. In its strictest form, this ideology suggests that behaviors are inherent and innate, resulting from the expression of genes. Most intellectuals subscribe to a view somewhere between these two extremes, on the gradient of a controversy that is still a hot topic of debate in many intellectual fields.

One particularly interesting field within the nature-nurture debate that has drawn heated testimony from both sides is language acquisition. How much of our ability to produce and comprehend language is programmed into our genes, and how much do we acquire only with environmental stimulus? Obviously, language cannot be completely genetic. Humans speak a wide variety of different languages, and very young children of any race or ethnic background can learn to speak and understand any of these if exposed to appropriate models at the proper time in development. Similarly, children cannot learn to speak a public language without this critical exposure. However, all humans use language in one form or another, and psychologists and linguists have noted many cross-lingual universals both in how children acquire language and in the inherent characteristics of the languages themselves. (Knezek, 1997). Then, which is which?

The first position is called “nativism”, defined as the belief that knowledge originates in human nature. This idea goes back to Plato and Kant, but in modern times, it is most clearly associated with the linguist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky’s views on the innateness of language are very strong indeed, starting with his first book in 1957, and repeated with great consistency for the next 40 years.

Because this theory has been so influential in modern linguistics and psycholinguistics, it is important to understand exactly what Chomsky means by “innate”. Everyone would agree that there is something unique about human brain that makes language possible. But in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that “something” could be nothing other than the fact that our brains are very large, a giant all-purpose computer with trillions of processing elements. Chomsky’s version of the theory of innateness is much stronger than the “big brain” view, and involves two logically and empirically separate claims: that language is innate, and that our brains contain a dedicated special-purpose learning device that has evolved for language alone. The latter claim is the one that is really controversial, a doctrine that goes under various names including “domain specificity”, “autonomy” and “modularity” (Bates, 1999).

To add, Chomsky concluded that children must have an inborn faculty for language acquisition. According to this theory the process is biologically determined – the human species has evolved a brain whose neural circuits contain linguistic information at birth. The child’s natural predisposition to learn language is triggered by hearing speech and the child’s brain is able to interpret what he/she hears according to the underlying principles or structures it already contains. This has become known as the Language Acquisition Device (LAD). He also stated that all human languages share common principles, which is known as Universal Grammar (UG). It is the child’s task then to establish how the specific language he/she hears expresses these underlying principles (Theories of Language Acquisition). As what Chomsky concludes: “It is simply not true that children can learn language only through ‘meticulous care’ on the part of adults who shape their verbal repertoire through careful differential reinforcement.” (Cowie, 2008).

On the other hand, there were these people who believed that language is not acquired, yet it is learned especially when the environment becomes a great contributor of it. “Empiricism”, which is the second position, is defined as the belief that knowledge originates in the environment and comes in through the senses. This approach (also called “behaviorism” and “associationism”) is also an ancient one, going back (at least) to Aristotle, but in modern times it is closely associated with the psychologist B. F. Skinner. According to Skinner, there are no limits to what a human being can become, given time, opportunity and the application of very general laws of learning. Humans are capable of language because we have the time, the opportunity and (perhaps) the computing power that is required to learn 50,000 words and the associations that link those words together (Bates, 1999).

Those who believe that language is learned through intellectual processes common to all learning and who do not believe in an innate “language faculty” explain Chomsky’s view in another way. According to proponents of the “nurture” theory, humans are much more advanced than other animals because they are able to use language, rather than the other way around (Knezek, 1997).

Furthermore, to support, Greenspan and Shanker radically assert that symbols, language, and intelligence are not a direct result of genes, but rather made possible by social and emotional interaction with other humans, namely adults. Taking this idea one step further, they assert that social and emotional mechanisms are not as hard-wired as otherwise thought, but are rather made possible by emotional interactions learned very early (Cyckowski).

Since the two sides were already explained above with its respective views and contentions, then again, “which is which?” Therefore, for me, my answer is: “simply a part and parcel of each”. I believe that neither nature nor nurture per se can really be the main reason of one’s language development. Like my nephew’s utterance that I mentioned at the beginning of this essay, I can then deem that it is neither naturally programmed in his mind nor was only taught by the people around him, but it could be both. Our genes and the environment play hand in hand with their significant roles in cultivating humans in whatever aspect. Akin to what Knezek (1997) believes, language, like so many other aspects of human behavior has proven to be the product of nature and nurture working together. This amazing human ability to communicate through language is both the result and the cause of our uniqueness as human beings. Language is a tool indeed: Simple enough for a child to effortlessly grasp, yet so complex that we may never completely understand just how genetics and experience interact to produce this most integral human trait.

 

References:

Bates, E. (1999). On the nature and nurture of language. San Diego, CA: University of California Press.

Cowie, F. (2008). Innateness and language. Retrieved October 1, 2010 from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/innateness-language/#ChoCasAgaSki

Cyckowski, L. A new spin on nature vs. nurture. Retrieved October 26, 2010 from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro05/web3/lcyckowski.html

Knezek, M. (1997). Nature vs. Nurture: The Miracle of Language. Retrieved October 1, 2010 from http://www.duke.edu/~pk10/language/psych.htm

Theories of Language (from a photocopied article)