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RE: [code-switching] Re: 'Biracial'

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  • peterson
    It may also be suspicion. In Egypt, English has become the de facto language of social mobility. Most Egyptians in the cosmopolitan parts of the city are
    Message 1 of 19 , Nov 15, 2002
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      It may also be suspicion.

      In Egypt, English has become the de facto language of social mobility. Most
      Egyptians in the cosmopolitan parts of the city are happy enough to hear you
      speaking Arabic. But they ask you why you bother.

      Two American students moved out of the American University in Cairo dorms into
      a low-rent area of Cairo in order to be forced to really work their Arabic in
      a part of the city no one was likely to speak English. They faced enormous
      antipathy from locals -- unlike anything they'd experienced previously in
      Egypt. It turned out that everyone assumed that no one who already spoke
      English (and thus had the lifestyle it indexes) would bother learning Arabic
      unless they were going to be spies.

      Mark Peterson


      >===== Original Message From code-switching@yahoogroups.com =====
      >Yes, well, I guess my own annoyance about this situation stems from the
      >fact that the world criticizes Americans for their monolingualism, their
      >inability and unwillingness to learn other languages, etc. etc. but when
      >an American then attempts to *speak* a language other than English, like
      >as not, the answer comes back in English. I have sometimes pretended
      >(usually in vain) to be Polish or Icelandic or something, just to get off
      >the idea that things have to be said in English.
      >
      >In that situation I referred to in Basel, up to that point everybody else
      >at the Basler Mission had been just fine speaking German; nobody asked any
      >questions, or objected; and I spent 2 months in Switzerland as a
      >"Gastarbeiter" back in 1958, during which time I hitchhiked across the
      >country speaking German to many drivers who picked me up. Nobody ever
      >responded with the vitriol of the 2nd Hausmutter, and that was 30 years
      >earlier.
      >
      >H. Schiffman
      >
      >On Mon, 11 Nov 2002, n_privitera wrote:
      >
      >> Hello,
      >>
      >> I just came across this message exchange and thought I'd drop in my 2
      >> cents although I realize that all the postings are quite old and my
      >> reply might not be read at all.
      >>
      >> There is a very easy explanation for the Hausmutter's outburst (apart
      >> from what the other poster suggested, that she might have been
      >> aggravated already due to something completely unrelated): the Swiss
      >> are still very resentful towards the Germans, and the German language
      >> as such is not really spoken in Switzerland. What *is* spoken, in the
      >> German-speaking parts of the country, are the various dialects of
      >> German (High German). To the Swiss, people who speak High German are
      >> obviously connected to Germany, and the Swiss are very careful not to
      >> be associated with them. Don't forget that WWII is only a little over
      >> half a century old, and the Swiss haven't "cleaned out their closets"
      >> yet, so to speak. If you want to talk to a swiss-german speaking
      >> person in Switzerland, don't be surprised if they are apprehensive
      >> about High German. French, Italian or English might be a better way
      >> to go.
      >>
      >> Cheers,
      >>
      >> N.
      >>
      >>
      >> > ----- Original Message -----
      >> > From: "Harold F. Schiffman" <haroldfs@c...>
      >> > To: "Martina" <lutzmartina_@h...>
      >> > Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 6:16 AM
      >> > Subject: Re: [code-switching] re: 'Biracial'
      >> >
      >> >
      >> > > Martina,
      >> > >
      >> > > I think there's no question but that emotional issues are
      >> connected with
      >> > > particular languages somehow; a language 'conveys' or acts as a
      >> vehicle
      >> > > for (or connects with) a particular language, and I think we know
      >> very
      >> > > little about this.
      >> > >
      >> > > I had a similar experience once in Switzerland; I was working in
      >> the
      >> > > library of the Basler Mission, which sent missionaries to India,
      >> and
      >> > > which has interesting archives. When I arrived I checked in with a
      >> > > particular "Hausmutter" who spoke German with me (since German is
      >> my
      >> > > strongest 2nd language) and we had no problem. Over the weekend,
      >> another
      >> > > "Hausmutter" took her shift, and she appeared in the library
      >> where I was
      >> > > working and spoke very sharply to me in English (I thought),
      >> wondering how
      >> > > I was going to take care of my bill etc. I told her that I
      >> thought I had
      >> > > worked it out with the previous Hausmutter; she left in a huff.
      >> > >
      >> > > The next morning I was in the breakfast room with my wife, and
      >> this 2nd
      >> > > Hausmutter again addressed me in English and asked how long I was
      >> planning
      >> > > to stay. I answered in German that we were going to go to
      >> Freiburg for
      >> > > the day but would be back in the evening. She replied (in
      >> English): "Why
      >> > > are you speaking German? I spoke to you in English." I answered
      >> (in
      >> > > German) "Wir sind in der deutschen Schweiz; ich denke, man kann
      >> hier
      >> > > Deutsch sprechen." She then asked, in English of course "Who are
      >> you? Why
      >> > > are you speaking German?"
      >> > >
      >> > > [I think the question of identity is clear here: who are you?
      >> what is
      >> > > your identity? why are you speaking a particular language as an
      >> expression
      >> > > of your identity?]
      >> > >
      >> > > I answered, again in German, that I was/am a German-American and
      >> felt
      >> > > like I could speak any language that was appropriate under the
      >> > > circumstances. She then replied, with great anger (in
      >> English) "I hate
      >> > > the Germans! I hate the German language!" and stomped out. (This
      >> seemed
      >> > > very strange to me and still does, coming from an employee of a
      >> religious
      >> > > organization, but whatever.)
      >> > >
      >> > > Her reaction was of course very extreme, and my wife looked at me
      >> and
      >> > > asked what I could possibly have said to her to make her so
      >> angry. I
      >> > > could only say that my great crime was to speak German when she
      >> thought I
      >> > > shouldn't. Code-switching was inappropriate for me, at least, in
      >> her
      >> > > eyes. (What she would have done with an actual German I don't
      >> know.)
      >> > >
      >> > > Hal Schiffman
      >> > >
      >> > > By the way, I have some materials on my website that I use for
      >> pedagogy on
      >> > > this issue (not necessarily related to code-switching).
      >> > >
      >> > >
      >> http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/540/handouts/emotion/emotion2.html
      >>
      >>
      >>
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      >
      >
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    • Marian Sloboda
      ... ... stems from the ... monolingualism, their ... etc. but when ... English, like ... This might be/cause a serious problem, I
      Message 2 of 19 , Nov 15, 2002
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        > From: "Harold F. Schiffman"
        <haroldfs@...>
        >
        > Yes, well, I guess my own annoyance about this situation
        stems from the
        > fact that the world criticizes Americans for their
        monolingualism, their
        > inability and unwillingness to learn other languages, etc.
        etc. but when
        > an American then attempts to *speak* a language other than
        English, like
        > as not, the answer comes back in English.

        This might be/cause a serious problem, I think. The same
        behavior has been reported by Tamah Sherman who researches
        the American community in Czechia, esp. Czech-American
        families and couples. Czechs often respond in English (or
        more precisely in a mix of English and Czech) to an American
        who tries to speak Czech. The American then switches to
        English too. (S)he might not be able to integrate so easily
        into the Czech society then, as it demotivates the person to
        use Czech and so to learn it well enough to be able to fully
        participate in interactions in Czech.

        Regards,

        Marian S.
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