Catherine Elliot

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14 thoughts on “Catherine Elliot”

  1. Dude I think Indonesian would be nuts, like Chinese, and require, as Annick Chen and Linda Li say, at least twice as much more input than anything European except maybe Gallic or Basque and older languages like that.

    1. I don’t expect that. Indonesian is written in the same alphabet as English so that’s a layer of challenge removed. I thought I’d heard Malaysian called one of the most straight-forward languages structurally; Indonesian and Malaysian are cousin languages, so I’m taking a guess… but I’ll bet they have about as many cognates as we do in Chinese, which is to say not very many. And not having so much in common with English presents some challenges.

      (As you know, Chinese isn’t nuts, Ben, it’s incredible!)

  2. Thanks for the warm welcome. depending on who you speak to or what you are reading, you’ll get different answers regarding the ease/ difficulty of learning Indonesian. It is a reasonably ‘new’ language and only became official in 1945 when Indonesian became independent. It was adopted from Malay and is still quite similar. However due to the current animosity between the 2 nations, trying to speak, say Indonesian in Malaysia, is exactly like they say it is to speak English in some places in France. I’ve been mid conversation with shopkeeper in Malaysia who on discovering that I was speaking ‘Indonesian’ immediately switched to English!
    Re Indonesian cognates, here is a fascinating article about that as well as some history:

    1. That was very interesting. I didn’t realize the recent history and deliberateness of the language… looks like a lot of specialty cognates from English. Does Indonesian have conjugation and tenses? I have been wondering just how far the non-tense, non-conjugation range of languages goes.

  3. Incredible to one, nuts to another. I find it fascinating to reflect on why we are pulled to one language and not another. I sometimes wonder if there are invisible world silver threads binding us to one language and culture, threads that exist beyond time and space, keeping us safe to that language and culture so we are not lost to another. Except for the polyglots like Harrell. But even Robert seems to have allegiance to German as the dominant one over the other three or four that he speaks. And for me, those French authors pulled me in with strength and the silky and precise sound of that language ever since I read my first prose poem by Baudelaire. French, its sound, made me happy. And can you see Jason Bond not being Scottish and teaching Gallic? And when I was over at Valor the other day and we talked I saw in you so much Chinese. I “got” it why you are a master of that culture and language. I didn’t say it because we often are afraid to say true things to each other. (Maybe it’s just now because it’s the time of Mordor.) We’re all right where we are supposed to be, I guess, but because we work with languages and speak them 90% of the time over a four and a half hour instructional time period, we have a grand secret – if the kids are a total pain in the ass, we have our beloved language to comfort us, rolling off our tongues, yet in the middle of the pain and confusion that comes every day to teachers. We have our secret, our language, there to comfort us all the time. I think we chose the right profession!

    1. Agreed on having a language one loves as a comfort in class! I’ve often told people I get paid to spend time thinking and talking in what I would want to anyway. I like my Chinese-ness. I’m not Chinese at all ethnically, but I often feel more comfortable in a Chinese setting. When I lived in China I was aware and even deliberately became bicultural. Before I ever lived in China, though, Chinese friends would comment on the ways I was Chinese in my attitude or thinking.

      Actually I think all the Chinese-Thai languages are really cool. I really like their structure and sound, and the writing! Man, that’s great! Never boring, always something to contemplate. Also Burmese, so some of those Tibeto-Burman languages, too, though I only have heard a little. There’s a fun comic about Asian language writing:

      In a similar vein, I have to learn Spanish from people who are engaging and appealing, because I’m not drawn that way at all.

  4. We know what it is like to be disappointed and slightly embarrassed. The disappointment is understandable. That is what keeps everyone looking for something better.

    The embarrassment you have sensed is something you can let go of. The shame we feel is when we take the blame for consequences of ineffective and counterproductive approaches. With nothing but our own experiences to fall back on we serve what we have been served. Hopefully this includes love and patience. But usually we were lead through a series of loosely connected grammatical notions and strings of vocabulary lists. We were expected to fill in blanks, memorize, practice, and produce. The result was often an A on quizzes and test and a hope that someday we would know the language. Maybe this describes our students more than us.

    We were handed hammers when we needed screwdrivers. Now we have the screwdriver. We can let go of the shame and focus on how to use a screwdriver. Even though I have so much to learn, it feels good to be using the screwdriver.

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