Monday, June 25, 2007

Emotions and language

Question from reading: Discuss the role of emotional language in your L1 and L2. Which language is emotionally richer? As your learners acquire (participate in) their new speech communities do you see a change in their emotional language behavior? Reflect on the notion of (re)construction of self in your own L2 or L3 learning experiences.

Emotional language appears to be most closely tied to L1; the reasons for this could be because we experienced most of our emotions for the first time in our L1 and/or that our expressive ability, in terms of detail, nuances, and simple vocabulary is usually much richer in our L1. I found the story of Eva/Ewa Hoffman heartbreaking at times in this article. It is interesting that she transitioned so strongly, so firmly, that she lost her inner voice for while. We language teachers (as language learners) can all relate to the experience of being in an L2 environment, feeling something very strongly, and being frustrated because we were at a loss to express how we felt on more than a superficial level.

In Korea, I felt this way once when a taxi driver was overcharging me by a ridiculous amount. He knew it; I knew it. I made my friend (who'd just come to visit me) get her bags out of the car and wait on the curb while I had it out with this driver. My Korean vocabulary was so limited at this point that I could just say--in a very Tarzanesque fashion, "Me, live Korea, airport 16,000 won. 26,000 won--no! Bad man bad man!!! You bad man! 16,000 won, me airport every day. 16,000 won, bad man!!!" Saram Nabayo is the phrase bad man, by the way. I don't think I'll forget that anytime soon! I was so upset that I couldn't argue/reason with this guy properly! In any case, I paid him 20,000 won and called him "bad man" one last time. The funny part is that I had just told my friend that Korea wouldn't be like when she visited me in Mexico, where I could communicate, because I could barely speak Korean at all. And of course, she was just standing on the curb, shaking her head and laughing hysterically, because here I was, having a "fight" in Korean. I guess it sounded more impressive if you had no idea what I was saying!

The opposite situation occurred in Mexico, where I grew very comfortable speaking, emotionally or otherwise, in Spanish. I partially attribute that to the fact that Spanish is such an emotional language for me that, outside of the language classroom in real interactions, I picked up on the language and expressiveness as I would have picked up on any other sociolinguistic characteristic, such as the gestures. I found out that my Spanish-speaking self was much girlier than my English-speaking self, though I've always been animated in either language.

I can empathize with the writers in the Pavlenko article, though. There were some cultural differences between where I lived in Mexico and where I grew up, and this of course was reflected in the language. Maybe not everyone would pick up on it, but language and interactions between people have always been on my radar. After a year in Mexico, I decided, very clearly, that there were too many of these cultural differences I would have to adopt/adapt in order to live there long term and not be constantly frustrated or miscommunicating. That's when I decided to come back to the U.S. (at least for a while).

Don't get me wrong, I loved living in Mexico, and I truly appreciate gaining a deeper understanding of the vibrant, passionate, and colorful culture of Mexico and of the Mexican people. I felt the same way after living in London, Seoul, and Taipei. I wouldn't trade those experiences fo anything, really. Every experience has helped shaped my world view and has made me a stronger and more empathetic ESL teacher.

Living in different countries has always been a remarkable, vivid, exciting, and educational experience that I have relished, but no matter what the problems or issues the U.S. has or may have, it ultimately feels like home to me. That's why I am here now, but I still harbor thoughts of packing my suitcase and taking off for more adventures and learning!


Learning languages 4 life said...


Would you say that Spanish is an emotional language, or that Spanish-speaking people are more emotional (than people speaking other languages). That question takes us to another question: Is it a language the one to determine the "emotional-ness" (I think I just made up this term) of a people, or is it the people that make a language more or less emotional? This will always be a chicken-egg question. :-)


Kinder Rocks said...


I think our presentation went well. Thanks for all your help and your kind words. My mom was a super great woman!!! See you Monday.


Kinder Rocks said...


My mom was super great!!!! Thank you for all your hard work (presentation).

See you Monday!

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.