blogging gobbledygook and such

Language or Linguistics?

What a dilemma electives can be when in college. Do you take up something you really want to learn? Do you take up something your friend is taking up so that you’ve got company for the class and you can skip a class or two in future without worrying about notes or in case the class sucks at least the company’s better or simply because seniors told you this class would be a breeze because the lecturer’s so arsing lazy he actually tells you which topics to study so you can shove the information and vomit it out on the test paper for a guaranteed A (assuming you’re a very good bulimic-brained student)?

For self’s faculty, the actual dilemma is to choose between the one-class-two-hours-a-week-two-credits linguistic-related class or the two-classes-four-hours-two-credits language class. Those who like to think their time is better spent than learning some unfathomable language like Russian (seriously, you’d write something like PECTOPAH and in Russian it is read as RESTAURANT – seriously), they’d pick Option One in a heartbeat. They also like to think that it is more educational than a silly language class because they’re learning a proper subject related to their course rather than learning a beginner’s class of a language you’ll never be proficient in.

Self really beg to differ on that opinion. Self would choose a language class in a heartbeat over any linguistics class, simply because learning new languages can never be useless in life. Linguistic electives, on the other hand, could prove to be a huge waste of time if you became a restaurant manager or an executive in a huge multi-national after graduation. Imagine how useful those language classes could be if you have jobs like these that require you to work with many different people from all walks of life. So you can’t speak Portuguese or Dutch properly, so what? At least you know how to greet and ask how are you, and handy phrases like that. It’s these little things that can make people who speak these languages warm up to you because you display a sense of knowing the language and culture of a place that must be very foreign to your other fellow countrymen, and people really appreciate that. Why do you think more and more Westerners are learning Mandarin? They can see what a huge market China is to tap into and if learning Mandarin is what it takes…

It’s almost pointless to point out that language helps when you travel. Almost, but still necessary to point out. You might snort and say, “That’s what phrasebooks and guide books are for” but honestly, how can you speak a language you bloody haven’t learnt? It’s like cooking from a cookbook with no cooking experience whatsoever. Sure, you could pick something up as you go along, but don’t be surprised you’ll face more trouble than you care for when trying to overcome the language barrier. You could mispronounce an ordinary word to sound like a expletive. Long shot, but you could. You could spent frustrating minutes searching the dictionary or phrasebook for a word and still not find it. You could be so bothered with trying to communicate with a local that you don’t realise it is that very local and his sidekick who’s going to con you.

Taking a language class would really help you pick up a new language quicker than one who has not learnt a new language as an adult. You can tell the nuances between languages and train your tongue to follow your teacher’s accent better. You know when to jot down the phonetic transcription of a difficult-to-pronounce word so you won’t forget the pronunciation the next time you practise your reading skills in that language. You definitely know better than to buy language tapes that make you suffer listening to a foreign drone for five hours and not really teaching you what you want to know or tell you where your mistakes are.

And of course, learning a new language means you get to meet more people. There is nothing more enriching than making new friends of different nationalities and really gain a wider perspective in life. You inevitably pick up knowledge on issues that didn’t matter to you in the past – you just become plain more worldly than you were before. Having friends around the world is a great boon when you need lodgings or tickets to the next World Cup. 😛 And of course, this also means more romantic opportunities…

The language classese can be a pain to attend, seeing as you have to attend twice more than a linguistics class for the same amount of credits, but it’s really fun – you get to watch movies, do sketches (if you like that sort of thing). It’s also easier to score an A because it’s a beginner’s class… 😉

Comments on: "Language or Linguistics?" (6)

  1. lovelyloey said:

    Yes, over here, language classes are 6 hours a week (2x2hour lectures, 2hr tutorials) while NORMAL classes are 3 hours a week. So friends ask me why I’m wasting my time doing French. Well, let’s just say I don’t want to lug a Lonely Planet phrasebook with me when I go backpacking in France next year. LOL.
    Also, bloggerdybooks is not working! 😦

    sulz: good thinking – you’ll learn the best places and value for money from the locals way better than some guide book.

    yes, what a bummer it’s down. hope that the blog will be fine, no lost posts or anything.

  2. I’m Chinese and my Mandarin is shamefully feeble. Wish I had taken more effort to learn Chinese when I was in school, but back then, I absolutely detest the language. Ah well, it’s still not too late – I’ll just borrow some of my little nephew’s Std 1 Chinese workbooks and study!

    Japanese is another beautiful language which i seriously hope to master some day. My Japanese vocab is also pretty limited, what I know I learnt from the Japanese animes.

    And speaking of the importance of learning languages, did you hear that some stupiid govt body wants to punish politicians who use English in Parliament and official functions without permission? Then, let’s not forget Dewan Bahasa’s ‘zealous’ effort to police the usage of BM…

    I hate it when languages are politicised – it’s one of my pet hates besides culture, religion and race.

    sulz: am a worse banana than you hands down – the only mandarin phrase can fluently utter is “wo pu huei chiang hua yi“, to which obviously comes the surprised reply in mandarin, “how can you say you can’t speak Mandarin if you just spoke it?”

    good luck in mastering mandarin and japanese, you’ll need more than your nephew’s text book and animes to really learn the languages!

  3. Hi there! I *LOVE* the name of your blog! 🙂

    Thanks for commenting on my post about buying too many books…. Very nice of you to say you’ll look for my books, but you won’t find ’em yet! First one is with an agent now, and the second is still in progress. Hopefully someday soon a fine young bibliophile will be buying my stuff.

    sulz: thank you, self love it too, after many discarded lame blog titles. ah, so that’s why haven’t seen any of your books. all the best in getting your book published!

  4. Interesting post & nice layout. The majority of my linguistic classes have been on par in length with my language classes. Maybe I’m the exception. Actually, a few exceeded the time. Thanks for your insights though! Take care.

    مع السلامة

    [With Peace, Yaser]

    sulz: thank you. 🙂 don’t quite understand what are you referring to about your language and linguistics class… so what language have you learnt?

  5. French & Arabic. My language classes have been about 4 hours a week while my linguistic classes usually are about the same, yet sometimes 5 hours. Perhaps the linguistic classes you refer to are just basic intros for people to get their requirements out of the way?

    sulz: yes, those linguistic classes are quite elementary as the degree is not a linguistic degree as such, but it’s tough all the same!

  6. By the way, I borrowed that word of the day module, I’ve been looking for something like that for WordPress for ages!

    sulz: glad you like it, self nicked it off another fellow wordpresser too!

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