December 24, 2010

Indian English

is spoken by more people than Canadian English, by a long shot.

Some colloquial phrases one might find:

"acting pricey": playing "hard to get," being snobbish

to shift: to move (e.g. from one apartment to another)

"loose motion": diarrhea

December 14, 2010


"My brother is happy?"

I look at Jamal and think back to the last time I saw his brother. Cold, depressed and lonely. Chain-smoking in his tiny Montreal apartment, sipping tea and staring into space. Telling me how tired he is. Tired of living in such a violent country. "Canada," he told me one day through squinted eyes and smoke rings, "is full of violent cowards. People believe they are gentle, but they attack in quiet ways. They use their intellect, their knowledge, always trying to prove they are smarter, more important. The man with no ego is the gentle man. Canada is a land of civilized barbarians"

--From Honeymoon in Purdah, by Alison Wearing, about traveling in Iran.

November 26, 2010

Quote of the day

Learning is more discovering how to align with the world than extracting knowledge from it.

--Tim Ingold, The Perception of the Environment

November 25, 2010

Reading notes

interactional linguistics
exogenous theory
"doing being friends"
professional strangers
discursive psychology

(From "A conversation-analytic approach to second language acquisition," by Kasper and Wagner).

extraneural operations
the whole caboodle
007 Principle
linear salience
grounded cognitivism
fundamental extendedness of human existence

(From "Extended, embodied cognition and second language acquisition," by Atkinson).

November 18, 2010

Dr. Seuss Quotation

"Adults are obsolete children and the Hell with them."

November 16, 2010

Poem moment

And aren't we all so soft and whole

When, as dark plums on a damp night

We fold into our fallen bodies?

Believe it or not, I have, ever so occasionally, written poetry. I wrote this back in high school. A visiting friend actually remembered it. Thanks, John.

November 15, 2010


We hear about its conservative, angry twin so often.

November 9, 2010

Awesomely untranslatable words

Jayus (Indonesian) -- "A joke told so poorly and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh"

Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan/Tierra del Fuego) -- "the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start"

Wabi-Sabi (Japanese) -- "a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay."

November 7, 2010

Words which, together, make me laugh

underwater blow job
urban war child
legends of the dhal

November 4, 2010

"compulsory visibility"

The anti-veiling laws and sentiments in Europe interest me. They came to mind when I read this:

"Disciplinary power [...] is exercised through its invisibility; at the same time it imposes on those whom it subjects a principle of compulsory visibility."

-Foucault, from Discipline and Punish

October 31, 2010

Defining "globalization"

a "multidimensional set of social processes that create, multiply, stretch and intensify worldwide social interdependencies and exchanges while at the same time fostering in people a growing awareness of deepening connections between the local and the distant."

-Manfred Steger, 2003 (He wrote a book on it, anyway).

October 30, 2010

Concrete poetry

By Pedro Xisto.

Also by Xisto, I believe.

By Amir Brito.

October 29, 2010

Quote of the day

A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.

October 28, 2010

Poetry fill-in-the-blank

If you were exchanged in the cradle and
your real mother died
without ever telling the story
then no one knows your name,
and somewhere in the world
your father is lost and needs you
but you are far away.

He can never find
how true you are, how ready.
When the great wind comes
and the robberies of the rain
you stand on the corner shivering.
The people who go by--
you wonder at their calm.

They miss the whisper that runs
any day in your mind.
'Who are you really, wanderer?'--
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
'Maybe I'm a _____."

What's the next word?

(The poem is "A Story that Could Be True", by William Stafford, but answer before you look it up.)

October 22, 2010

"Julie and Laura were rated as native speakers"

...of Egyptian Arabic.

Julie immigrated from Great Britain to Cairo at 21 when she married an Egyptian. She got no formal instruction and never learned to read or write in Arabic.

Laura studied Egyptian Arabic in the last year of her undergrad. She studied it at the graduate level, too, and then she settled in Cairo, married an Egyptian, and became a Standard Arabic teacher at a university there.

13 teachers of Arabic as a foreign language evaluated their speech. Julie and Laura were rated as native speakers by 6 of them. Furthermore, the two women were pros at discriminating between Arabic dialects and judging whether sentences were grammatically correct.

BOOM! You have to understand that in my textbook on second language acquisition, this study stands out like a sore thumb. Almost all researchers subscribe to the Critical Period Hypothesis, which says that after puberty, you'll never properly learn a second language, because of some biological change in the brain. Any yet if you travel, you meet people like Julie and Laura rather frequently. Researchers must not travel.

Even for this study, you see the researchers scrambling to say that Julie and Laura are biologically unique ("Julie herself is left-handed and has skin allergies"). No. They created environments for themselves and went for it.

October 18, 2010


...the ability to move spontaneously and actively, consuming energy in the process.

Learning English

Metonymya figure of speech in which a thing is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated. For instance, "Houston" for NASA Mission Control.

Sociolect: a.k.a. a social dialect, a variety of language associated with a social group such as a socioeconomic class, an ethnic group, or an age group.

Cline: in linguistics, a scale of continual gradation.

"I speak English. I'm learning Language X." These two sentences together carry a fallacy. The fallacy is that we fully know our mother tongues ("tongue", by the way, is an example of metonymy, but I didn't know that an hour ago).

October 15, 2010

Allophone Quebec, a resident, usually an immigrant, whose mother tongue is neither English nor French. 

The word "allophone" is formed from the Greek roots allos (other) and phone (sound or voice).

In 2001, the big groups of allophones were speaking Italian, Arabic, Spanish, Greek, and Haitian Creole.

October 13, 2010

Ownlife the term used in 1984 for individualism and eccentricity--considered highly dangerous. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

October 8, 2010

Wiki Friday: Paulo Freire

He was an educator. In Brazil at his time (1920s-1960s), literacy was a requirement for voting in presidential elections. So he taught 300 sugarcane workers to read and write in 45 days.

October 6, 2010


...refers to something that is constantly undergoing change or something that is likely to undergo change.

October 5, 2010

I'm back

the Foundation
the seawall
the Biltmore
the Downtown Eastside

I'm back in school (Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia). I'm back in Vancouver. I'm back on the blog.

July 8, 2010


Everything must fit in a small black duffel bag. The duffel, until a moment ago, had four tags. I smiled as I cut them off, because not one was valid.

R.B. Leighton.
c/o Nirvana Gardens Hotel

Marian Leighton
c/o Saudi Aramco 
Box 9687
Saudi Arabia

If found please contact the nearest Gulf Air office.

Hakiki Koç
Türkiyenin Her Yerinden
Koltuk No: 6

Talk about baggage.

July 6, 2010

A perfect day

For the writing portion of an exam, I asked my students to imagine "a perfect day."

"I wake up and I was so happy – extremely happy – I’ve finally taken all of my exams, by that time my best friend called me and that’s an important for him; he had his first date and he promised to the girl that someone will accompany him – I was this person – so I accepted. While I was talking into the phone, Grandma prepared the breakfast, I took a sit in front of the piscine and took it. Then Brahim arrived, and we went together.

As soon as we arrived Brahim became purple, I know that he has seen the girl. While I was parking my bike he began to ask for million time, What am I supposed to do? During the walk I began to ask myself what I’m going to do alone, but I quickly left my frustration she was with a friend of her – a very beautiful girl. I was charmed and I decided to do something, first, I told her some jokes, after this I had conversation with her, during this conversation I felt like a strange feeling – it was love. Suddenly I asked her if she wanted to be my girlfriend, I didn’t know what I was doing and thank’s god she accepted.

That the best moment of my life. When it was time to leave she gave me her number and we promised to see each other the end of day.

Brahim and I were like dreaming."

July 1, 2010







comment vas tu??



whats up?

well thank u



not much

are you in tetouan?




and u?




we should meet up!



peut etre apre demain je vais voyager a agadir



apres demain!?!



so tomorow if u wante



donc, nous devons rejoindre


je vais manger a la union

a 1.30 ou 2H

ca marche pour toi?



non parce que je serais a inba















le voyage bien passé?



oui, absolutement

mais 4H demain...fayn?



f cafe paris









a demain, et je dirai alaina, aussi




c bon




ciao ciao




thlay frask






ossalmi 3a alaina


June 30, 2010

Two Important Swedish words


Just right. Like Goldilocks and the bowl of porridge that's not too much or too little, but just right. Jojo says the word came about when some Vikings were sitting in a post-battle party circle, sharing a big bowl of mead, and the bowl got all the way around, ending on the last man. "Mmm...lagom."



June 29, 2010

Tuesday poetry

We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone find us really out.

'Tis pity if the case require
(Or so they say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

--"Revelation", by Robert Frost

I'm back in Morocco, after a whirlwind trip through Spain, Denmark, and Sweden. 

June 20, 2010

June 14, 2010


"The price of self-destiny is never cheap, and in certain situations it is unthinkable. But to achieve the marvelous, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought."

--Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

June 11, 2010

Soon I won't be a teacher

No more teaching outfits

No more students

No more arriving early

No more markers

No more lesson plans

No more attendance sheets

No more teacher’s books

No more whiteboards

No more “sh…”

No more student conflict

No more behavior problems

No more spelling things like an American

No more having to say, “I’m a Canadan, actually."

No more first day introductions

No more, “Here are the rules.”

June 8, 2010


åndi falsafa f lHayat: ida åishti Tawilan, kulshi li tåalimti ghadi ykun mustaåmal.

I have a philosophy for life: If you live long enough, everything you learn will come in handy.

Hta darija.

Even Darija.

*Did you notice that "philosophy" is "falsafa"? How sweet is that? I've been studying Arabic for eight months, and that is my first holy-crap-look-at-that English-Arabic cognate.

Why I can't imagine a serious relationship in another language

“I kissed him on the cheek and suddenly understood the distance that separates words from communion. You need very many words and even more pauses, and thousands of tiny motions, so slight that they are barely noticeable even to the trained eye; you need an even larger palette of tones, merely to signal misunderstanding; you have to pass through all of this before you reach a state where you know that your meaning and your words are one, no more and no less, and that they are instantaneously grasped by the person for whom they are meant. Before you achieve this, you need recourse to many lies.”

From Leaves of Narcissus, by Somaya Ramadan (Egyptian), from The Anchor Book of Modern Arabic Fiction.

June 5, 2010

Everything is fine

The process of cultural adjustment, which is also known as the U-shaped curve of cultural adjustment, encompasses five distinct stages:

  • Stage 1: The feeling of excitement and eagerness. This stage occurs before leaving to go to the new culture.
  • Stage 2: The feeling that everything in the new culture is great. This stage occurs upon arrival to the new culture.
  • Stage 3: The feeling of everything in the new culture is terrible.
  • Stage 4: The feeling of adjustment. The stage where the visitor begins to feel comfortable and takes steps to become more familiar with the culture.
  • Stage 5: The feeling that everything is fine. The stage where the visitor has adapted to the culture and in some ways is embracing it as their own.


June 1, 2010


“The woman noticed that her daughter had slowed down and her movements were sluggish as if she had to drag her body along.”

[Upon finding her daughter pregnant, the woman leads her out into the desert to a small village, where…]

“A man passed by them and saw the woman crying. He stopped and asked what the matter was. He was big, his bones were well defined, and his neck thick. She told him her story.

The man looked toward the girl who lowered her face. He contemplated the situation while the woman continued complaining that her husband had died without leaving her a boy.

The man said to himself, ‘Be kind for once. Here is a weak woman with no man to help her.’

He was a professional killer, robber and thief, but times change. He said to himself, ‘Old age has begun to creep up on me and I have nothing left. Any action I take, I pay the price even more now.’

He patted the woman’s shoulder and comforted her. He carried her belongings and led the procession to his home. At home he served them food, which they ate, and then prepared a bed for them, telling the woman to sleep peacefully and let him take charge of her worries.

As night descended on the village, the man approached the girl and broke her neck. He put the body into a sack, carried it to the river and dumped it in. He then lighthertedly returned home.

In the morning he prepared breakfast for the woman and placed her and her belongings on a donkey. As he walked beside the donkey back to the village the woman raised her face to heaven and muttered prayers thanking God for the man.”

--“Benevolence,” by Sabri Moussa, from The Anchor Book of Modern Arabic Fiction.

May 28, 2010

Wiki Friday: Jay-Z's rapping technique

Royce de 5’9’’ and Fredo Starr of Onyx both describe Jay-Z’s emphasis on flow in the book How to Rap – Fredo says that Jay-Z is “a master of the flow—he can flow fast, he can flow slow”. The book describes how Jay-Z uses ‘rests’ to provide structure to a verse and how he uses ‘partial linking’ to add more rhymes to a verse.

So, what is “flow”?

“The rhythms and rhymes” of a hip-hop song's lyrics and how they interact. 'Flow' is also sometimes used to refer to elements of the delivery (pitch, timbre, volume) as well, though often a distinction is made between the flow and the delivery.

Staying on the beat is central to rap's flow – many MCs note the importance of staying on-beat. MCs stay on-beat by stressing syllables in time to the four beats of the musical backdrop. 

Poetry scholar Derek Attridge describes how this works in his book Poetic Rhythm – “rap lyrics are written to be performed to an accompaniment that emphasizes the metrical structure of the verse”. He says rap lyrics are made up of, “lines with four stressed beats, separated by other syllables that may vary in number and may include other stressed syllables. The strong beat of the accompaniment coincides with the stressed beats of the verse, and the rapper organizes the rhythms of the intervening syllables to provide variety and surprise”.

May 25, 2010

Beginner Four

"Teacher, are you a vegetable?"

May 15, 2010

Life in translation

Sixteen hours of Darija down.

Where's the bus?
Fayn ilkar?

This is my brother. His name is Andy.
Hada khayi. Ismu Andy.


See you next week.
Nshufak l usbuwå limaji.

Maria's baby is really cute.
Beybi d Maria drif bzef.

I need more vocabulary.
Khasni l kelimat ktar.

We're going to go south, because there are a lot of flowers there.
Ghadi nimshiyu n l janub, Hit kayn bzef d zuhur tima.

I'll stay here for 10 months in total. For me, that's a long time in one place.
Ghadi nbqa hinaya åashara shuhur f l majmuwå. Lili, hada waqt tawil f waHid l makan.

I want to swim, but the pool here is closed.
Bghit nåum, walakin bisin hinaya mishdud.

I want to continue and learn different dialects in different Arab countries. In Canada, maybe I can help new immigrants who speak Arabic. That's the idea.
Bghit nkimil wa ntålam darijat mukhtalifa f l buldan l årabia. F Kanada, yimkin nqdar nsåid muhajirin jdadin li kaytklmu l årabia. Hadi hia l fikra.

Melodee is doing a Ph.D here, about illiterate women in government.
Melodee katåmal doktora hinaya åla lmara lumia f l Hukuma.

This is why I like Turkish: I only learned the things I live, to shop, to talk to people.
Hakda ålesh katåjbni turkia: tålimt ghir l hajat li kanHataj... besh nåysh, nshri, nhdar må nes.

I'm tired.
Ana åyana.

I feel bad, because I lived in Saudi Arabia for years and didn't learn more than 10 words of Arabic. I know, it's a real shame. But everyone worked for the same company, and the language of the company was English. 
KanHis qabih, Hit åisht f såudia khilel sanawat wa ma tålmt shi ktar min åashara d l kelimat d l årabia. Kanårif, liasaf shadid. Walakin kulhum khudmu f nefs sharika, wa lugha d sharija kanat l injilizia.

I go to Turkey every summer.
Kanimshi n turkia kul sayf.

I feel frustrated, because I'm learning Darija, but I'm not speaking a lot. I feel like if I stop, just for a few days, I'll forget everything.
KanHis bshwiya d inziåj, Hit kantålam darija, walakin ma kanhdar shi bzef. KanHis faHal ida waqaft shwia d l ayam, ghadi ninsa kulshi.

May 14, 2010

Wiki Friday: Prison

It's been around forever, right?

For most of history, imprisoning has not been a punishment in itself, but rather a way to confine criminals until corporal or capital was administered. Only in the 19th century, beginning in Britain, did prisons as we know them today become commonplace. The modern prisons system was born in London, as a result of the views of Jeremy Bentham. The notion of prisoners being incarcerated as part of their punishment and not simply as a holding state until trial or hanging, was at the time revolutionary.

It deters people, right?

Meta-analysis shows that prison sentences do not reduce future offenses, when compared to non-residential sanctions. This meta-analysis of one hundred separate studies found that post-release offenses were around 7% higher after imprisonment compared with non-residential sanctions, at statistically significant levels. Longer periods of time in prison make outcomes worse, not better; offending increases by around 3% as prison sentences increase in length.

It's only for pretty bad people, right?

As of 2006, it is estimated that at least 9.25 million people are currently imprisoned worldwide.

The leader in just about everything...

In absolute terms, the United States currently has the largest inmate population in the world, with more than 2½ million or more than one in a hundred adults in prison and jails. Although the United States represents less than 5% of the world's population, over 25% of the people incarcerated around the world are housed in the American prison system.

Approximately half of the U.S. jail population consists of pretrial detainees who have not been convicted or sentenced.

"Les plus beaux prénoms d'aujourd'hui"

A book of "the most beautiful" French baby names came under my possession today. The authors included all sorts of tidbits, from "origine" to "symbolique." Character descriptions are funny:

Passionné et nerveux, colérique et secret, Pierre n'est pa un homme facile.

I've heard that Mary means bitter, but the book describes Marie as coming from the Hebrew mar-yam, meaning "goutte de mer." Same idea, since the taste of the sea is indeed bitter, but that's much more poetic.

If I have a daughter, she's Margot: une indépendante-née. Elle entend bien faire respecter son besoin de solitude. Prudents dans ses amitiés, elle est exigeante et n'accorde pas facilement sa confiance. Elle a une forte personnalité, mais elle fuit l'aggressivité et les tensions qui la déstabilisent.

Plus, the authors say there is a connection between Margot and November 16th, which happens to be my birthday. Cool.

May 11, 2010

Belated Wiki Friday: Africa

How many countries, anyway?

The continent has 54 states, including Madagascar, various island groups, and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic whose statehood is disputed by Morocco.

Was everyone colonized?

In the late nineteenth century, the European imperial powers engaged in a major territorial scramble and occupied most of the continent, creating many colonial territories, and leaving only two fully independent states: Ethiopia and Liberia. Egypt and Sudan were never incorporated into any European colonial empire, however, after the British occupation of 1882, the country was effectively under British administration until 1922.

Is there a union?

The African Union (AU) is a 53 member federation consisting of all of Africa's states except Morocco.

May 3, 2010

This happened, so then that happened

"Called the Whorfian Principle of linguistics, after Benjamin L. Whorf, who proposed it, the theory (simplified here) contends that the language each of us speaks is a product of the society we live in. Our language, like our culture, to some extent predetermines what we can perceive.

...Thus, Whorf indicates, all cultures are linguistically--therefore perceptually--limited, because no one culture or language encompasses all the possible attitudes in the universe. English, for instance, predisposes its speakers to think and act in linear ways, to assume causality, logic, connectedness, and ordinal sequences, because there is such a preponderance of words in our language having to do with lines, points, edges, sequences, causes, and consequences: "line of sight," "point of view," "on the verge of," "chain of command," "sequence of events," and so forth. English speakers therefore are limited in their capacity to understand nonlinear ideas, such as those in Oriental philosophies.

...the reverse may also be true: the greater the stock, the greater the possibility of perception; the more words and structures available for reference, the better our chance of understanding and (we hope) the less likely we are to be trapped in a limited or jangled construction of reality. Vocabulary may extend the capacity to understand."

From How Language Works.

May 2, 2010

"Tenemos una problema con los pajaros"

Birds in vents, like bugs in dates or ants on the counter, are the little things that make expatriates throw temper tantrums. The housewife calls her husband in tears--"I'm not fucking living in this hellhole anymore!"--not because the new culture denies her opportunity to work, or requires her to cover her head, or takes her away from friends and family, but because there are weevils in the flour, which she discovered when she went to make cookies that morning.

I woke up to birds in the house, again. It's been a week-long saga, women vs. birds. It began when Alaina found two dead under the window; while we slept, they had battered and exhausted themselves in their efforts to escape. "But where did they come from?" we asked. Alaina identified the source--the vent in the kitchen above the water heater, which connects to the great outdoors. They had built a nest up there. Since then, one or two fall down the vent each day and must be guided out through a window or door.

It took a few days for an action plan to emerge. Alaina talked to The Haj, our neighbour. I haven't been keen on The Haj since he told me in Spanish that I didn't speak Spanish ("Pero..."). I've come back around, though, because we both agree on siestas. Anyway, Alaina and The Haj together bought a metal contraption to block the birds from entering from outside. Before we applied it, we had to to get the man who delivers the gas tanks to come up and clean out the nest.

As of this morning, the man who delivers the gas tanks had not come. Two birds had fallen through the vent and it was not even 11AM. I knocked on The Haj's door. "Tenemos una problema con las pajaros." He saw the wildness in my eyes (Plus, having woken to birds, I had not brushed my teeth or brushed my hair). He jumped into action.

And here is where the weevils and bugs and ants and birds are balanced by the humanity of dealing with such problems. In North America, getting someone to come and fix something for you requires a phone call, an appointment, maybe half an hour with customer service, and then a wait. The Haj went downstairs, found the man who delivers the gas tanks, and came back up, bringing his own ladder. Fifteen minutes and two full bags of nest later, the metal contraption was in place and sanity was restored to our home. The Haj suggested I tip the man who delivers gas tanks 10 dirhams ($1.10), which I already had in hand for the occasion. Bueno.

May 1, 2010

Damn you, Aristotle

"If our language is full of two-valued terms, like "up"/"down," "black"/"white," "good"/"bad," "either"/"or," "always"/"never," then will we not inevitably begin to think in such terms? Will we not perceive the universe itself, and human beings, and values, as being this or that, yes or no, A or Not-A, with only two choices possible? And--the universe, human beings, and value being rather more slippery and less divisible than that--will we not inevitably come to misunderstand, oversimplify, and reduce what we perceive?"

From How Language Works.

April 30, 2010

Wiki Friday: Canadian immigration

Holy crap:

Statistics Canada projects that, by 2031, almost one-half of the population over the age of 15 will be foreign-born. The number of visible minorities will double and make up the majority of the population of cities in Canada.

Where are they from?

In 2006, Canada received 236,756 immigrants. The top ten sending countries, by state of origin, were

1. People’s Rpublic of China (28,896)

2. India (28,520)

3. Philippines (19,718)

4. Pakistan (9,808)

5. United States (8,750)

6. United Kingdom (7,324)

7. Iran (7,195)

8. South Korea (5,909)

9. Colombia (5,328)

10. Sri Lanka (4,068)

The top ten source countries were followed closely by France (4,026), and Morocco (4,025), with Romania, Russia, and Algeria each contributing over 3,500 immigrants.

How do we choose which ones to let in?

In Canada there are three categories of immigrants:

1. Family Class (closely related persons of Canadian residents)

2. Independent Immigrants (admitted on the basis of a point system that account for age, health and labour-market skills required for cost effectively inducting the immigrants into Canada's white-collar or blue-collar labour market), and

3. Refugees seeking protection by applying to remain in Canada.

In 2008, there were 65,567 immigrants in the family class,149,072 economic immigrants, and 21,860 refugees.


How do they become citizens?

Under Canadian nationality law an immigrant can apply for citizenship after living in Canada for 1095 days (3 years) in any 4 year period.


Fun fact:

One of the largest groups to immigrate to Canada were the Scottish. The first Canadian prime minister, John A. Macdonald, was a Scot from Glasgow. His successor, Alexander Mackenzie, was also born in Scotland.