Our last regular post of the 2023 calendar year is by frequent guest blogger Janan Chan, who writes, “I was born in Hong Kong SAR and moved to Canada with my mother when I was seven. Growing up in a small university town in Québec, I struggled with accepting my Chinese heritage. Graduating from Concordia University, Montréal with an MA in English Literature and Creative Writing, I found an ESL/EFL teaching position in Shanghai, China. From 2021-2024, I have continually modified the lesson materials provided to discuss real issues and to use language in creative, expressive and meaningful ways. Teaching ESL/EFL in Shanghai, China has helped me to develop my teaching ability and allowed me to reconnect with parts of my identity which I had once rejected. I am a life-long creative and my poems have been published in The Mitre (118, 122, 128), yolk. (1.1), Soliloquies Anthology (25.2), Warm Milk (3), and the chapbook “Water Lines”. My poems explore identity and belonging (Chinatown, Montreal, pg. 62-63) and feelings of nostalgia and longing (On Track, pg. 15, Knowing Few People in Early Semesters, and 15.), to name a few.
This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.
Internet access in China can often seem contradictory. While smartphones allow people to scan QR codes in restaurants to order food, unlock shared bicycles and make cashless payments, China’s internet firewall blocks access to foreign websites or sites which might provide dissenting information (Economy, 2018). Social media posts can be removed, censored and monitored, and users can be blocked from posting text with certain keywords. Within this restrictive communicative landscape, however, internet users still find creative ways to express transgressive opinions, thoughts and information.
…a willingness to use untranslated words from another language….This was the way we spoke English in Bombay, sprinkling it with Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, or Gujarati words. It was also the way we spoke Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, and Gujarati, sprinkling those languages with English words where they seemed appropriate….English, I understood, could be chutnified. That was a moment of real liberation. (Rushdie, Languages of Truth, 2021, p. 92)
A village in rural West Bengal, India, where as early as February the temperature goes up to 35 degrees Celsius or so every day, with no prospect of rain until April or May, is about as far from a Montreal winter as one can imagine. It’s where I have just spent four weeks working with several gifted and enthusiastic young women who teach at supplemental schools run by a local NGO, the Institute of Social Work (ISW). Like many NGOs across India and in the developing world, ISW works in the local language (here, Bengali) and draws mostly on local resources. My cousin Nupur Sarkar has been part of ISW since its inception in 1978; I am much indebted to her for having made it possible for me to spend time at ISW’s Birbhum-district schools. After a previous visit in 2019, I wrote about the experience here on the BILD blog, and have dreamed ever since then of coming back and staying awhile.
My journey on researching African languages began with my Master’s thesis work (Barise, 2021) on Somali linguistics––an East African Cushitic language. Currently in my PhD, as I revisit the contentious and age-old question of the language and the nation in Africa, I find myself being inspired by East African writers like Ngũgĩ wa Thiongʼo (1986) and seeking refuge in East African languages such as Kiswahili, Somali, and Amharic beyond research work. As a Somali speaker, who cannot speak Kiswahili or Amharic, I find myself growing in awe of these languages as majestic sounds and symbols in which Africa sheds tears and laughs in joy. Tears and laughter need no translation. Through them, I hear myself lost yet found, whether it is through Kiswahili calling me by the name Maisha, the nostalgic songs of Tizita in Ethiopia (wa Ngũgĩ, 2021), or the uplifting dances of Dhaanto in Somalia.
This blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.
Cesar Millan is widely known among dog lovers through his Emmy-nominated television series Dog Whispererwith Cesar Millan. His unique approach as a dog trainer—who aims to train humans and not just their dogs—makes him a household name.
Cesar grew up with animals in rural Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, where his grandfather was a tenant farmer. After illegally crossing the border into the United States when he turned 19, he started working as a dog groomer and walker, and impressed many of his clients by his natural way with dogs despite having no formal training. Eventually, he got noticed and invited to do a reality TV series, which became the most popular show on the National Geographic Channel. The rest is history.