Despite its utility, language defies categorical statements, and this slipperiness makes it beautiful, like an old friend you never tire of talking to.
We may add that it was Saussure who introduced the term ‘coefficient’ [into linguistics], and we may note at the same time that Saussure also introduced another term into linguistics, one that has found high favor with linguists, namely, the term ‘phoneme’…. He introduced it, for lack of a better word, as designation for the expression elements of a language in order to avoid confusion with the ‘sounds’ of linguistic usage—that is, to designate the purely ‘algebraic entities’ of his theory. By an irony of fate, Saussure’s theory was so basically misunderstood by his contemporaries and by many who came after them that the term is now generally used as a synonym for ‘linguistic sound’—precisely what Saussure was trying to avoid.
12 Ways to stop freezing up when you try to speak a second language
Making the shift from language classroom to real-life conversation can be hard, and it’s easy to panic/freeze up when you’re on the spot and you don’t know how to respond, or how to get people to stop switching to English with you. I got thinking recently about things that I do and that I’ve seen other fluent language learners do in order to manage this difficult situation, and ended up with the following 12 tips.
1. Pre-think. What kinds of situations am I going to be in? What will people say/how will I respond? Basic situation ideas include: where/how you learned the language, where you’re from/what you do (and other biographic information), what you’re doing in the area and for how long, especially if you’ve travelled there to learn the language. Also think about how to describe things you’ve done recently or are planning to do. Think about who you’re going to see and what you could say to them. If a funny thing happens to you, describe it to yourself in the language, so it will be easier to tell someone else about later. This is a great time to look up how to say essential words.
2. Re-think. When you have a conversation in the language that goes less-than-ideally, or where you had to switch languages, afterwards think about how you would have said things in the language so if the situation comes up again you are prepared. If you are trying to learn a language with few speakers around you, then you can also do this for any conversation you’ve had. This is also a good time to look stuff up.
3. Learn filler words. Every speaker hesitates sometimes, so learn the equivalent of “ummm” and “ohh” in the language. Similarly, learn transition words/expressions like “and so”, “and then”, etc. This signals that when you don’t know what to say, it’s a content issue, not a language one, so people will be less likely to switch out of the language.
The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.
It is an odd fact
that s is one of the hardest
sounds to produce: yet
of the most unmarked and most
frequent. Here, of course,
the biases of our field betray us: a phonetician (for whom
production has not quite won out
yet) wouldn’t blink
at this information
but would reply that s—hard though it may be
to pronounce—is perceived
one of the most distinct sounds.
It reaches the ear cleanly, like
a jet engine miles away or
trees breathing out the wind: slash of whitenoise cuts
the signal, abrogates subtlety of sonorant and vowel. Something
hard to miss, hard
to do without, that
I think at times that
children with lisps (before, I
mean, they’re pushed around the slow
track of speech therapy and social
something right: s is
too strict a sound; that I’d rather make do with
the unclarity of th, or inaudibility