Language News: Catherine Charms Wales By Secretly Learning Welsh

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In January, I attended the annual meeting of the Linguistics Society of America (LSA), the largest organization of linguists in the world.  The conference was in downtown Pittsburgh, and each morning I drove in and checked my winter coat with the bell hops.  

For three days, the bell hop who took my coat and my tip was professional, but not overly expressive.  Then, on the fourth day, a linguist who I did not know walked past us and greeted him in the tribal language of India which he learned as a child.  The result was one of the biggest smiles I’d seen in a long time.  “What did he say?” I asked the bell hop, who answered, as I had already guessed, that the American linguist had spoken to him in his native tongue. 

The moral of the story:  People’s languages are important to them.  Using someone’s language is (usually) a sign of respect, even if it is done symbolically, and it goes a long way to making people feel comfortable.

Here’s another story of the same phenomenon on a larger scale:

Yvonne Yorke: Catherine Charms Wales By Secretly Learning Welsh.


About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
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One Response to Language News: Catherine Charms Wales By Secretly Learning Welsh

  1. Pingback: Energy Island – Anglesey Power Boost For Wales

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