Friday, July 11, 2008

I am legion, July 11 edition

I am bi-literate/lingual after many, many years of hard work: Barack Obama this week is urging young people to learn another language. He suggests Spanish, which is a good idea considering the U.S.'s changing demographics. Chinese would also be good; so would Arabic, really. Man, just learn anything, Americans! Rudolph Giuliani, however, seemed to misunderstand Obama's target audience (youths who know English as a first language) completely and somehow accused the candidate of encouraging immigrants to not learn English.
OK, so 1: Huh? and B: I'd like to know how many languages English-only proponents speak.

Obama's suggestion is totally reasonable and practical: Learn your second or third or fourth or whatever language when you're young. Kids, they learn languages great. Adults, not so great. My mom started learning English in grade school and so when she started using it as an adult, she picked it up great. Me, a product of the American public school system (of which I'm actually a fan, I'm really more criticizing the era, not the system itself) had my two years of German in high school which amounted to nichts. At 33 I began minoring in Spanish and after four years of really hard, constant work I can now read novels and futbol articles online and understand a good portion of what I hear, and totally murder espaƱol when I try to speak it. But I got it. That's something. But learning a language as an adult is hard, man. You have to work at it constantly. Like every day and nearly every minute. And if you're not fortunate enough to have that time (because, you're totally wasting your time by, I dunno, working and mak
ing a living) then getting your second  language will be nearly imposible. If we're serious about raising English literacy and fluency among immigrants, we need to find ways for adult to learn the language that can be incorporated into life. 

I am all for restructuring the American family: A blogger at DailyKos talks about her dad, who recently got laid off from his auto industry job. She worries about what will happen to him now, since he was approaching retirement and has virtually few new-industry skills. She's worried about him and others in his position. Like most dads, she says, he worked three jobs to make sure she would never want for anything. 

It's a very touching post, but I couldn't help but wonder what the blogger is doing for her dad, if she would be willing to work three jobs to make sure that he would never want for anything as well. It's an interesting phenom in the U.S. that our parents take care of us, but we're not expected to do the same back for them. I know that my traditional, Midwestern conservative EuroAmerican  family members would have fits over the impropriety of the idea that
, if a time of need like this arose, that we pull together so that we kids helped take care of them; my Asian family would completely expect the family to join ranks and support them. The U.S. nuclear family is so individually structured, I don't know if that kind of extended support is possible. We'd need to rethink the way we do family, outside of the nuclear idea. 

But this isn't just a non-Western idea, it's very American South, too. It's not unusual for families to live together and support one another in the South. Maybe it's not the American family model, it's just the American consumerist/hyperindividualist family model that we need to dismantle. 

I am discovering hypermiling: Kinda sorta. I recently discovered that the mileage on my car went up in a big way if I drove 60 or 65 mph instead of 75 or 80 mph. No brainer, there. (Hey, I stay in the right lane. Freakin' pass me already.) Also, got more conscientious about parking, idling and route-planning. But here's the difference between me and a regular hypermiler: I drive a Toyota Echo; a lot of them drive an SUV. So when I boost my mileage, that means I'm squeezing about 500 miles out of one 10-gallon tank of gas, and they're getting .... ugh, I don't even want to think.

I am a fan of the barefoot shoes: I hate wearing shoes; if I had my way I'd live on a city on the beach where shoes were option. I hate the way shoes feel on my feet, I hate the way I have 
to walk in shoes. So in summers I ditch socks and wear flipflops as much as possible. So I was
 really interested in a recent New York Times magazine article about how shoes are bad for our feet. We're just not evolved to walk in shoes, the article says. People have trouble with walking in barefoot because over time we adapt to walking in shoes, so when we walk barefoot we walk around like we're wearing shoes. But now there are shoes being made to simulate barefoot walking, and I bought a pair yesterday, the Vibram FiveFingers shoe. And they roooooock. OK, so they're odd looking, but it really feels like
 walking around barefoot. Take that, no shoes, no service. I'm gonna be wearing these shoes constantly. 


Erudite Redneck said...

To answer yer question:

I am white, Southern, undocumented Cherokee, supposedly Scots-Irish (who isn't?) with a smidgen of Black Dutch (Daddy said). Bloodwise, I mean. :-)

Geographically, I am Southern and Western, with a little ancestral Midwestern.

And I think in a former life, I was a South American, probably Brazilian, mariner who drowned at sea.


We need to have lunch, or breakfast, or sup. I need to catch up witcha! :-)

Erudite Redneck said...

Dang, it's been a month, blogwise. R U blogalive??

drlobojo said...

Just checking in to see where you are.