Second Language Acquisition

By Elizabeth Gregory

Just a quick comment about Michele's blog from yesterday…those of you who are unable to travel abroad to try these soft drinks can also try many of them and more at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. When I was there, I got a tasting cup and could go to a ton of different fountains to drink my Coke product of choice from around the world. This aspect alone was well worth the price of admission.

Anyway…next week I will be writing about classroom language learning versus the immersion experience. So, I thought it might be a good idea for everyone to give a little thought to second language acquisition (SLA) in general. (OK, some of you are yawning). In all honesty though, it is a very fascinating field of study. I will spare you all of the research studies that I know about, but for those of you who know or speak a second language, did you ever stop to think about how you learned that language? I'm not talking about how many years of classes, etc., rather, the actual way you processed that information to learn it. I've given a very brief and partial explanation of some theories and research on second language acquisition below. (Yes, I wrote it). However, there is way too much information in this field to write about in one blog entry. If you're interested in learning more, I highly recommend the following books: Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course by Susan M. Gass & Larry Selinker and The Study of Second Language Acquisition by Rod Ellis. Happy reading!

Many SLA scholars agree that the forms that second language (L2) learners produce are systematic (Corder 1967) and that L2 learners internalize a series of rule systems, which may be separate from both the native language (NL) and the target language (TL) (Selinker 1972). It is now well-known that second language errors cannot be predicted simply from a contrastive analysis of the native and target language features as Lado (1957) proposed. In phonology, syllabification errors have been used to test a competing hypothesis that L2 errors are also influenced by general learning constraints that apply across languages. Final consonants are assumed to be more difficult to acquire than initial consonants although the reason for this is still unclear.

A major focus in SLA studies has been the role that universal factors play in acquisition. Prior to then, the influence of transfer had been well documented, since the early work of Lado (1957). However, in 1971 Nemser reported that Hungarian learners of English used substitutions that occurred in neither native English nor Hungarian; likewise, Johansson (1973) noted that L2 learners of Swedish produced sounds that occurred in neither Swedish nor the native languages. These nontransfer substitutions have been termed universal developmental variants (part of Universal Grammar, UG) because they are similar or identical to those occurring in L1 acquisition. Although these substitutions had been well documented, there was no attempt to describe the interrelationship of transfer and developmental factors until Major (1987) proposed the Ontogeny Model to describe a relationship of these two factors for both chronology and style. This model described a strict hierarchical interrelationship between language-specific transfer factors and non-language specific universal developmental factors (which can be viewed as part of universal grammar). The model claims that transfer processes decrease over time, whereas developmental processes are at first infrequent, then increase, and finally decrease.

The World of Coca-Cola

Traveling abroad allows tourists to experience, among lots of other things, new flavors or brands of carbonated beverages, which is a real view into a country's culture. Since I'm partial to Coca-Cola products, I did a little research and found some of their products around the world.

Here are a few I found interesting:

Where You Might Find It – Argentina, Chile
Flavors – Grapefruit, Lemon

Where You Might Find It – Austria, El Salvador, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland, Switzerland
Flavors – Apple, Bitter Grapefruit, Bitter Lemon, Bitter Orange, Bitter Water, Club Soda, Fruit Punch, Ginger Ale, Lemon, Orange, Pear, Raspberry, Vanilla Cream

Inca Kola
Where You Might Find It – Chile, Ecuador, Peru
Flavor – Bubble Gum

Nordic Mist
Where You Might Find It – Chile, Portugal, Spain
Flavors – Bitter Lemon, Bitter Water, Fruit Punch, Ginger Ale, Lemon, Orange

Where You Might Find It – China
Flavors – Apple, Apple Banana, Apple Strawberry, Coconut, Grape, Grapefruit, Mandarin Orange, Orange, Peach, Vanilla Cream, Watermelon

Where You Might Find It – Germany, Guatemala, Mexico, Poland
Flavors – Apple, Apple Blackcurrant, Apple Lemon, Apple Peach, Cherry, Grape, Grapefruit, Lemon, Orange, Peach, Pear, Raspberry, Vanilla Cream

Where You Might Find It – Guatemala
Flavor – Pineapple

Real Gold
Where You Might Find It – Japan
Flavors – Cola, Ginseng, Herbal

Mare Rosso
Where You Might Find It – Spain
Flavor – Bitter Herbal

Where You Might Find It – United Arab Emirates
Flavor – Lemon Lime

Oh, and don't worry Fresca fans…you can find everyone's favorite grapefruit soda in Bolivia, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. And if you love TaB as much as I do, Spain and a few other countries still offer Coca-Cola's first (and best!) low-calorie cola.

For hours of fun, check out Coca-Cola's Virtual Vender!

Travel Purchases

By Beth Klemick

The other day I was taking inventory of the various knick-knacks and purchases around my apartment; I have accrued many items from my world travels that are proudly displayed and even worn to date. For the most part, all of my purchases have been ones I look back fondly and only a few that still have me pondering what was I thinking? Everyone has different tastes, styles and interests about these types of purchases. Personally, I tend to opt for uniqueness with my travel purchases.

While in Madrid I splurged on a jacket that I knew I certainly would not be able to find across the Atlantic, at least not for another year or so. Fashion trends in Europe are more advanced and up to date, and by the time we get around to experiencing a trend it is already so passé in the fashion world. My all time favorite store abroad is Mango. I became a Mango junkie thanks to my very good Dutch friend, and whenever I travel, especially in Europe, I seek the store out immediately.

There have been times that I have regretted not getting a particular purchase while traveling. While visiting Jaipur, the famous "pink city" of India, a friend and I took a tour of a silk factory and store. The staff on hand was extremely welcoming and took the time to dress each of us in traditional saris. After taking a few pictures of each other, I pondered buying my luxurious green embroidered sari and eventually declined. At that particular time I believe I made the right decision, but now looking back on pictures of the beautiful fabric I do regret not making that purchase. My mom regrets that I did not buy her one of the silk rugs. Eight years ago I had no idea what a silk rug from India would cost in the United States; eight years later she still reminds about how I could have gotten her a beautiful rug for half the cost. Live and learn.

My all time favorite purchase was and wasn't a physical item. I purchased an exquisite soapstone and onyx chess set in Mombasa, Kenya. The best part of that purchase was not only receiving the detailed history of the vendor's life and family but was also the ability to give a gift to them. Joseph was very proud of his craftsmanship, like in many less developed countries, goods and necessities are few and far between. He was not as concerned about the monetary aspect of the purchase but curious to know if I had things like socks, markers/crayons, toothpaste, paper, and so on to exchange with him for the chess set. The next day I returned with $18.00, 6 pairs of white tennis socks, a tube of Colgate, a packet of blue Bic pens and one 200-sheet notebook, Joseph's face lit up like a Christmas tree. With a big smile and a hug he thanked me profusely for the items, especially for the pens and notebook paper because his six-year old son loved to draw and handed me the chess set. I have seen chess sets similar to the one I gave my father from my travels to Africa selling for hundreds of dollars; this particular chess set was a unique and priceless gift to me as well.

Spanish Poetry

By Elizabeth Gregory

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870) is my favorite Spanish poet. Although he was born in Sevilla, he spent much of his life in Madrid. Many of his shorter Rimas are professions of love, and are so romantic. I swear, the first time I read some of these for homework in Spanish Literature class in college I nearly fainted. Then, when my professor read them out loud the next day with such emotion and drama, the entire class (including the guys) was left speechless and on the verge of swooning. OK, I'm exaggerating slightly, but I think we were all so caught up in them, and almost believed that these poems had been written for each of us individually. They're that amazing.

I have picked 3 of my favorite Rimas (a tough decision to make) to share with you. The first 2, I also gave English translations, but since translations often don't do justice to the words, meter, and structure of the poem, I have left the last one without an English translation.

¿Qué es poesía?, dices mientras clavas
en mi pupila tu pupila azul;
¡qué es poesía! Y tú me lo preguntas?
Poesía…eres tu.

What is poetry? You say while you fix
on my eyes your blue eyes
what is poetry! And you ask me?
Poetry…is you.

Por una mirada, un mundo;
por una sonrisa, un cielo;
por un beso…yo no sé
que te diera por un beso

For a look, a world;
for a smile, a heaven;
for a kiss…I don't know
what I would give you for a kiss.

Hoy la tierra y los cielos me sonríen,
hoy llega al fondo de mi alma el sol,
hoy la he visto…la he visto y me ha mirado…
¡hoy creo en Dios!

Travel Shopping

I just found a really cool website that sells travel necessities (and luxuries!):
Flight 001

From luggage to things to keep you entertained while you travel, Flight 001 has something for every budget. According to the website, the company was conceived by two business travelers who thought travel shopping ought to be as easy as traveling itself. They've been featured in lots of popular magazines (check out As Seen In) and there is even a holiday section for great gift ideas.

The World Gives Thanks

We all know that Thanksgiving is being celebrated in the U.S. next week, and we all know that it's an American day of giving thanks. But did you know that there are Thanksgiving celebrations all around the world? Some are celebrated on the same day as the American Thanksgiving, and others are held on different days throughout the year. Here are some examples of Thanksgivings around the world:

A National Day of Thanksgiving (Dia Nacional de Acao de Gracas) became official in 1949 as a public, official, and solemn glorification of the name of God. The Chief of State and others celebrate this holiday in the Cathedral of Brasilia with a solemn Te Deum on the fourth Thursday of November.

A general Thanksgiving (Fete de Grace) and Harvest Home Festival was first observed in 1879. It is officially proclaimed yearly and celebrated on the second Monday in October.

The ancient festival by the Imperial Court is associated with rice offerings to both heavenly and earthly deities. It has been associated with national rest from labor and is now officially called the Labor Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on November 23.

The Federal Day of Thanks, Penance, and Prayer (Jeune federal, Der Eidgenossische Dank-, Buss-, und Bettag) is an outgrowth of days established by religious and secular authorities since 1650. The modern observance, since 1832, on the third Sunday in September is a quiet day to review the good things received.

Movie: Innocent Voices

By Sue Lavene

Innocent Voices (Voces Inocentes), filmed in Mexico and based on the childhood of screenwriter Oscar Torres, tells the true story of the civil war in El Salvador during the 1980s. What makes this film stand out from all other war dramas is that its perspective is told through the innocent eyes of an 11-year-old boy, Chava, who is just one year from being drafted into the army himself.

Made the "man of the house" by his father who left them to go to the US at the start of the war, Chava's days are filled with innocence and play, while his nights are filled with the horror of flying bullets and kidnappings. Even more frightening than the stray bullets was the fact that within a year's time he would be forced into the army.

Young Chava has no political opinions. He supports his uncle, a guerilla, and fears the government because he does not want to be made to be a soldier in the army on his twelfth birthday, like so many of his classmates.

The scariest part of this story is not only watching families take cover underneath furniture and mattresses but especially those scenes in which the army came to schools and lined up the boys to remove the twelve year olds. After school hours, in a desperate attempt to remain invisible and avoid being picked up by the army, children hid on the rooftops of their homes.

Chava's spirited resilience warmed my heart rather than leaving me overwhelmingly sad. There is comfort in knowing that Chava will eventually pull through, both physically and spiritually – as he has clearly lived to tell the tale – but his saga is nonetheless harrowing and intensely moving. Spanish subtitles.

Travel Safety

By Beth Klemick

Is Mexico safe? How safe is Egypt? Am I going to be safe in Paris?

I have found the most common question about safety abroad is one of the most difficult to answer, even by the most experienced traveler. There is no tried and true answer to the age-old safety question; in fact, these days there are probably more questions about safety than answers. Safety is a key factor to be taken into consideration when planning your travels. Although anyone you ask will never be able to guarantee your safety, talk to as many people who have traveled to your destination. Those who have spent time and experienced the destination can provide insight into your destination and reveal helpful tips and possible areas/situations to avoid altogether. Here is a list of general precautions to adhere to in any travel destination:

  • Do not walk alone after dark on deserted streets. Do not walk alone at night period, and this applies to men and women!
  • Make sure your luggage is locked when traveling by bus or airplane. Don't leave unlocked valuables in your hotel room.
  • Protect your valuables, especially in crowded places (don't wear expensive jewelry, don't carry cameras loosely around your neck, find a good way to conceal your money, etc.) Best to leave anything of value at home.
  • Use general precaution against theft of personal belongings and rental cars.
  • Always carry your passport or a copy; sometimes the police will check your passport.

For complete and current travel conditions and advisories in your particular travel destination, please refer to the US Department of State's website. It is a good idea to read these travel advisories, but don't let them or a guidebook be the only source of your information; gather as many sources as possible. This isn't going to guarantee your safety, but it can make you more vigilant of situations that may arise.

French Used In English

By Elizabeth Gregory

Think you don't know a lick of French? Think again. The English language is chock full of French words and expressions that we all use on a regular basis, often times without a second thought. They have become so commonplace that nobody really questions their meaning…unless someone butchers the spelling of one in writing. Perfect example, my friend made a terrible mistake over email the other day. When I called her on it, she wrote back and said, "Oh, sorry. My fopa." I had to think for a minute…what's a fopa? Does it rhyme with sopa (Spanish word for soup)? Then I realized that she really meant faux pas.

Of course since France is so well known for cooking and good food (aka cuisine) it shouldn't be a surprise that many of the words are food related. Who hasn't said bon appetit, ordered the soup du jour, or been to a restaurant where everything is on the menu a la carte? Are you experiencing déjà vu yet?

Maybe you've had to RSVP to a soiree and afterwards decide to rendezvous with your friends so they can all meet your fiancé. I could go on and on here, but my point is that there are so many expressions taken/borrowed/adopted from French.

Here's something you may not know…RSVP stands for Répondez, s'il vous plaît, which means that "Please RSVP" is redundant. I found this tidbit of trivia as well as a list of French words used in English with their meanings at Granted, quite a few of the words on the list I have never used, but it's pretty amazing at how many are used frequently.

Review: Living Language

To be honest, I have a real love for languages but no real time to learn them. I can say a few things in a few languages, but nothing would really get me by if I found myself in a foreign country. I took Italian in high school, and while I'm not fluent, I can figure out quite a bit of the rest of the Romance languages if I'm reading something…very helpful when I'm trying to enter homestay information!

Within the last few years I developed an obsession with learning German, so I decided to try it on my own. I bought the German Complete Course by Living Language, and I was really pleased with the amount of information I was given for the price. The set comes with three audio CDs, a German coursebook to follow along with the audio and a German-English / English-German dictionary. Because I am on public transportation for long stretches of time, I transferred the CDs to my iPod, and I carried the coursebook with me in my schoolbag.
(iTunes has versions to buy for your iPod. Just check out the audiobooks.)

School sort of got in the way, so I've only gotten through the first disc so far; I have to say, though, that the whole process has been really fun and easy. I looked a little crazy mouthing along to the German speakers on the bus, but I really felt like I was learning German. The "teachers" on the discs have great German accents, and I was able to mimic their pronunciations of words and phrases while reading them in the coursebook.

All in all, I think this set is a great buy. Living Language offers similar sets in lots of other languages, like Arabic, Spanish and Italian, and they also offer versions for learning languages in your car.

It's obviously not the same as learning a language in a country where it's spoken, but I think these sets are great for learning a few basics before heading abroad. You'll definitely feel more confident having learned a few more words / phrases in your target language, and hearing how they speak on the CDs might help prevent any misunderstandings with native speakers.

I'll post again next month with my progress!