Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections: South Korea

This is the twelfth and last in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The  first eleven posts were on the elections in Taiwan, Russia, Senegal, France, Egypt, Paraguay (not technically an election), Mexico, Venezuela, the U.S., China (not technically presidential or an election), and Ghana.

Park Geun-hye was elected president of South Korea by nearly 52% of the vote last week. 

This is good news for those who are happy to have the first woman president in South Korean history and who see her political experience and commitment to campaign promises as advantages.

This is bad news for those who see her as an insider (her father was president, or "dictator" to many, in the mid-20th century) and as actually wishy-washy in her political commitments.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections: Ghana

This is the eleventh in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The  first ten posts were on the elections in Taiwan, Russia, Senegal, France, Egypt, Paraguay (not technically an election), Mexico, Venezuela, the U.S., and China (not technically presidential or an election).

John Mahama actually became president of Ghana in July 2012; he was the vice president and assumed the presidency when his predecessor died. But then he went on to win the Ghanaian presidential election in December of this year.

This is bad news for those (the opposition) who believe there was corruption on the part of Mahama and his party. They are going to court over it, which of course has happened elsewhere this year and before and will likely not lead to any changes in the election results.

This is good news for those who were in charge of the election and who observed the election and believe it was a fair, democratic election, in one of Africa's leading democracies.

On a side note, it is interesting to note that Mahama, calling as would be expected for all parties to respect the election results, not only appealed to the "voice of the people" but even to God. In the BBC article, he is quoted as saying," "The voice of the people is the voice of God."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Quatrième dimanche de l'Avent

Read an Advent meditation in English.

Luc 1:46-55

Et Marie dit: Mon âme exalte le Seigneur,
Et mon esprit se réjouit en Dieu, mon Sauveur,
Parce qu'il a jeté les yeux sur la bassesse de sa servante.

Car voici, désormais toutes les générations me diront bienheureuse,
Parce que le Tout Puissant a fait pour moi de grandes choses. Son nom est saint,
Et sa miséricorde s'étend d'âge en âge Sur ceux qui le craignent.

Il a déployé la force de son bras;
Il a dispersé ceux qui avaient dans le coeur des pensées orgueilleuses.
Il a renversé les puissants de leurs trônes, Et il a élevé les humbles.
Il a rassasié de biens les affamés, Et il a renvoyé les riches à vide.

Il a secouru Israël, son serviteur,
Et il s'est souvenu de sa miséricorde, -
Comme il l'avait dit à nos pères, -
Envers Abraham et sa postérité pour toujours.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dimanche de la joie

Read an Advent meditation in English.

Ésaïe 61: 1-3

L'esprit du Seigneur, l'Éternel, est sur moi,
Car l'Éternel m'a oint pour porter de bonnes nouvelles aux malheureux;
Il m'a envoyé pour guérir ceux qui ont le coeur brisé,
Pour proclamer aux captifs la liberté,
Et aux prisonniers la délivrance;
Pour publier une année de grâce de l'Éternel,
Et un jour de vengeance de notre Dieu;
Pour consoler tous les affligés;
Pour accorder aux affligés de Sion,
Pour leur donner un diadème au lieu de la cendre,
Une huile de joie au lieu du deuil,
Un vêtement de louange au lieu d'un esprit abattu,
Afin qu'on les appelle des térébinthes de la justice,
Une plantation de l'Éternel, pour servir à sa gloire.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dimanche de la Paix

Read an Advent meditation in English.

Ésaïe 40:1-5

Consolez, consolez mon peuple, Dit votre Dieu.
Parlez au coeur de Jérusalem, et criez lui 
Que sa servitude est finie,
Que son iniquité est expiée,
Qu'elle a reçu de la main de l'Éternel
Au double de tous ses péchés.
Une voix crie: 
Préparez au désert le chemin de l'Éternel,
Aplanissez dans les lieux arides
Une route pour notre Dieu.
Que toute vallée soit exhaussée
Que toute montagne et toute colline soient abaissées!
Que les coteaux se changent en plaines,
Et les défilés étroits en vallons!
Alors la gloire de l'Éternel sera révélée,
Et au même instant toute chair la verra;
Car la bouche de l'Éternel a parlé.

Monday, December 3, 2012

New Poll: Christmas Traditions

Up goes a poll that will stay on the sidebar here at Langue or Parole? for the Christmas season: What Christmas tradition(s) is a must for you and your family? You can select more than one, actually. And if you have something not on this list, leave us a comment to let us in on your special traditions. Merry Christmas!

Advent calendar
Advent wreath
Candlelight service
Christmas tree
Nativity scene
Turkey dinner
Watching a specific movie.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

L'Avent 2012

Read an Advent meditation in English.

Le mot Avent vient du latin et signifie "avènement." Pendant la période de Noël, on pense naturellement au premier avènement de Jésus Christ, comme un bébé, comme un être humain : Emmanuel, Dieu avec nous. Mais si nous nous tournons au mot grec (d'où vient le mot latin d'ailleurs), ceux qui s'intéressent aux langues anciennes et à la théologie pensent plutôt à un autre avènement, le deuxième avènement de Christ. Ainsi, l'Avent nous rappelle que Christ est venu une fois, un fait que nous célébrons, mais aussi que nous attendons un autre avènement, un retour.

Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 Presidential (Non)-Elections: China

This is the tenth in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The  first nine posts were on the elections in TaiwanRussiaSenegalFranceEgyptParaguay (not technically an election), Mexico, Venezuela, and the U.S.

The appointment of Xi Jinping as the next president of China has received fairly muted reactions, as in no one side (at least outside of China) is strongly for or against him. The ruling Communist Party of China will continue in power.

The most interesting thing about this appointment is directly related to language and translation. This appointment (which is not finalized until January) is a non-election, just like the ascension of Paraguay's vice president to the presidency earlier this year, but it is different in that it has nothing to do with elections or democratic processes, given that it is a party appointment.

In fact, and here is the linguistic issue, the "president" of China should perhaps not even be called that. I have almost no knowledge of Chinese, but I do know that the word used for the chairman of the CPC is zhǔxí (主席). Translated literally, this means "main seat" or "head seat" (which I know because the same characters exist in Japanese). In other words, the chairman, not the president (in the normal political sense of the word).

This is the word the Chinese have used for their leader ever since Mao entered the scene. The switch in the English translation from "chairman" to "president" is more recent, but in fact "prime minister" or, simply, "chairman" makes a lot more sense. Though no ideological purpose is necessarily behind the change, it certainly allows for misunderstanding.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Today in Language: Clovis

Clovis, the first king of France, or rather of the Franks, died on November 27, 511. He began the Merovingian dynasty, which was followed by the Carolingiens, Capetiens, Valois, and Bourbons, until the Franks/French finally decided they'd had enough of monarchies and all that and opted for a violent, bloody, fairly sudden turn to the republic.

The name Clovis, in case you're looking for a good boy's name, is the Latinized form of Ludwig, meaning "famed warrior." Clovis was that, since he conquered Gaul, in addition to uniting the different tribes of Franks.

Clovis is also remembered for his conversion to Christianity, which is generally thought to have been genuine, though it is hard to know motives. Was it for his wife, or for political power with the papacy, or for some other ulterior motive? Only God and Clovis know.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections: USA

This is the ninth in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The  first eight posts were on the elections in Taiwan, Russia, Senegal, France, Egypt, Paraguay (not technically an election), Mexico, and Venezuela. I think I missed one in the last month or two; let me know.

President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney to gain his second four-year term as U.S. President.

This is good news for those who believe President Obama has made significant steps in getting the country back on track in spite of a terrible economy and political battles. This is bad news for those who believe his signature health care plan and progressive stance on social issues are derailing the American economy and society.

In fact, as in any presidential election, there are myriad issues at play--more than any one politician can handle expertly. In the case of the U.S. president, of course, the issues are even more significant because what the U.S. does affects almost every other country, either indirectly through cultural and political influence or directly through military and political influence.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Edward Saïd, culture : Continuation

La conséquence lourde de la reconnaissance d'une certaine définition du terme culture est la suivante :
Cette idée de la culture ne conduit pas seulement à vénérer la sienne, mais aussi à la croire totalement séparée des réalités quotidiennes, puisqu'elle les transcende. (p. 14)
Comme conséquence de cette pensée, ce que Saïd dit plus tard est absolument profond et bouleversant ; c'est ce que je voudrais inculquer à chaque étudiant que j'enseignerai ou que j’emmènerai dans une équipe missionnaire à une autre culture : 
Les formes culturelles sont hybrides, mêlées, impures, et il est grand temps que leur analyse rejoigne leur réalité. (p. 51)
C'est surtout surprenant pour avoir été énoncé par quelqu'un qui ne reconnaît rien de la grâce de Dieu. Mais Dieu donne de sa grâce commune à tout le monde pour que nous découvrions quelque chose de la vérité !

Friday, November 2, 2012

An Involved Definition of Culture

This is based on a book originally written in English, but I only have the French copy right now so it's in French. If you're interested in the English, you can look up Edward Saïd's explanation of culture in the introduction to Culture and Imperialism.

Dans Culture et impérialisme, Edward Saïd donne une explication/définition très intéressante de la culture. Il y'en a « deux sens précis » :
Premièrement, (le terme) désigne toutes les pratiques -- tels les arts de la description, de la communication et de la représentation -- qui jouissent d'une certaine autonomie par rapport à l'économique, au social et au politique, et revêtent souvent des formes esthétiques dont l'une des finalités essentielles est le plaisir. (p. 12)
La second sens du mot « culture » s'instaure presque imperceptiblement. Par certaines connotations : le raffinement, l'élévation. C'est la réserve, dans chaque société, du « meilleur qui ait été pensé », disait Matthew Arnold dans les années 1860. (p. 13)
La première partie de la définition m'attire par ce qu'elle exclut (l'économique, le social, le politique), la deuxième partie par la manière dont elle -inclut ces parties, en soulignant la tension qui existe entre les pratiques « culturelles » lorsqu'elles existent dans le monde réel où ces autres éléments les influencent profondément :
Dans cette seconde acception, la culture est une sorte de théâtre où diverses causes politiques et idéologiques s'apostrophent. Loin d'être un monde apollinien d'harmonieuse sérénité, elle peut se muer en champ clos où ces causes vont s'afficher tout à fait clairement et se battre. (p. 14 ; emphase ajoutée)
Pour Saïd, cette définition de la culture mène (ou révèle) une conséquence très lourde. Quoique je ne sois pas d'accord avec toutes ses conclusions (voir sa philosophie en général) la conséquence majeure me fait penser beaucoup. Mais à demain pour la découvrir ! Pensez à ces citations pour le moment ! 

Monday, October 29, 2012


Every employee has a grievance. This was back in September, but there were no newspapers for a day (except for Le Parisien). No, journalists weren't on strike--the distributors were:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

SNCF Grève / Public Transportation Strike

The SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français), the national rail service in France, is having a planned strike today. Fortunately, I only use the Paris public transportation (metros, buses), which is a different system not affected by this strike.

In principle I generally do not agree with protests (whether strikes, manifestations, or something else), especially when the grievances are hardly grievous. There is a qualitative difference (okay, an enormous qualitative difference) between SNCF people going on strike because they want better wages and benefits and 19th-century French miners going on strike because they didn't earn enough to even feed their families and because they worked in conditions that were actively killing them.

This qualitative difference is obvious in the half-hearted manner of today's strike. If a protest's demands are truly just, then the protest shouldn't care about those affected, right? But the SNCF has been very careful to alert passengers to schedule changes and propose alternatives to travel interruptions. So why have a strike? And if you are going to have a strike, even if your demands are just, why would you be unjust to others (in this case, passengers) who have no say in the matter? The ethics of strikes, and protests in general, are fascinating.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections: Venezuela

This is the eighth in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The  first seven posts were on the elections in Taiwan, Russia, Senegal, France, Egypt, Paraguay (not technically an election), and Mexico. I think I missed one in the last month or two; let me know.

Hugo Chávez won the presidential election in Venezuela precisely two weeks ago. If he finishes his new term in 2019, he will have been in power 20 years.

This is good news for those who approve of Chavez' authoritarian regime and the political and social consequences of his Bolivarian Revolution, as well as those who credit him with giving the country low gas prices and building new, free clinics and other infrastructure.

This is bad news for those who suspect election irregularities or intimidation of voters (not to mention outright fantasy) by the Chávez administration (not just in this but in his past presidential victories as well) and who see only societal decline and economic disaster as a result of his trying to take over the country.

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Nobel Peace Prize (2012)

I really didn't want to have to say this, but everyone is telling me to go ahead and opt for full disclosure over excessive modesty. So, yes, as you no doubt suspected, the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize this  year precisely because I am living in France for 10 months. I essentially deflected the prize to the EU. There, it's out; I feel better.

I join a long, prestigious line of prestigious Americans who won the prize for the very reason that, well, um. We'll come back to that. But anyway, I am proud to follow Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Barack Obama in accepting the prize. I am humbled to be part of this prestigious line of peacemakers, though (and I am not just being modest when I say this) I have to confess that I am not up to their level of contribution.

Carter won "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development." (Dude, what are you choking on?) Gore won, along with the IPCC, "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." (You're choking and crying?) Obama won "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." (Why are you doubled over?) The EU (i.e., me in reality) won "for [having] over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."*

(Hey, are you okay? Do you want me to do the Heimlich? Wait, hey! Are you laughing?! Cut that out! No, seriously, stop! Okay, whatever. Once you get up off the floor and wipe away your tears of mirth, please try to listen to me seriously.)

This is a wonderful legacy. Overlook the fact that I haven't been alive for six decades, and all of these citations for heroic Americans make your heart swell with pride.

One day I will come out and write an overtly political post about the Nobel Peace Prize, but for now I just wanted to let overflow my enthused and overwhelmed heart and spirit at the great honor I had to receive the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. (The 1.5 million dollars is only a secondary consideration.)

*Source: Uh, Wikipedia of course.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Creation, God's or Man's?

We went to Versailles today, where I took the photo below. The Sun King had a splendid palace, but who's creation is ultimately more thrilling, man's or God's? Or God's creation of humans and the gift of creativity he gave us? It helps to look up once in a while.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

¡Como se refresca!

Expliqué hace no mucho tiempo como nuestro hijo de dos años está aprendiendo y mezclando el inglés y el español (y también el francés). Otro ejemplo de su uso creativo de la morfema "ar" es "jumpar" (que quiere decir "brincar").

Hoy dijo algo de otro rollo por completo. Como está haciendo más y más fresco aquí en París, dijo mi esposa al salir del departamento, "Yo soy muy friolenta." Sin pensar, nuestro hijo respondió, "Yo soy frio rápido."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sans . . . qui ?

Je viens de lire Texaco de Patrick Chamoiseau pour mes études. J'ai trouvé dans le livre une comparaison qui m'a beaucoup plu. En parlant du personnage Esternome, le père de la protagoniste, le conteur explique comment Esternome a perdu l'amour de sa vie, une femme qui s'appelait Ninon. Pour décrire le pauvre homme après la mort de Ninon, l'auteur nous dit : "Sans Ninon, il vécut de longues années comme vivent les fleurs cueillies."

Ce serait vrai pour moi sans . . . Miriam. Et vous ?

Monday, September 17, 2012

We made it.

Until now I had forgotten to mention that we also made it to the Paris landmark last week. I got some not-so-bad photos, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Journées du Patrimoine

Yesterday and today (September 15 and 16, the third weekend of September every year) were the European Days of Patrimony (Journées du Patriomoine). This is a holiday that France began in 1984 and that other EU countries share now. Public buildings (such as government buildings) and monuments are open to the public, generally for free. It was originally called Open Doors Day in France. Is there anything like this in the U.S.? Since we pay taxes, it makes sense for us to be able to visit, say, the Senate building or the White House for free at some point.

Sénat de la France

We visited the French Senate Saturday and then dropped by the National Assembly (similar to the U.S. House of Representatives) but there was a long line that was not moving, and we had two tired children with us so we just took pictures outside.

L'Assemblée Nationale

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

France Photos

The photos that I publish from now through next summer should all be my personal photos. Monday's post had a couple of photos I took at the Jardin du Luxembourg and Notre Dame. I am very excited because my wife and I bought a new camera for our year in France. I will permit myself one photo that I did not take, of the Olympus SZ-12, which we bought at Wal-Mart.

Now, for camera geeks, this is not a big deal. In fact, it's not even a deal. This is not an SLR camera. It didn't cost me one or two thousand dollars (or even two hundred dollars). It doesn't have loads of manual controls. But what it does have (24x optical zoom and good automatic controls with a few manual controls, is more than enough for me. We can still take decent pictures like we would with a point-and-shoot, but the zoom enables us to take pictures of things we could only wistfully gaze at from afar before, like this gargoyle on the Notre Dame cathedral:

If I had a spiffier camera, I wouldn't know what to do with it anyway. So this is not a recommendation necessarily (get what works for you), but rather my saying, I love my new camera! I hope you like the photos this year.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Six Thoughts after a Week in Paris

Le Palais du Luxembourg
So my family and I arrived in Paris a week ago, Monday September 3. A few observations from the first week . . .

1. We can get to any country much faster than our forebears of one or two centuries ago. For that, I am willing to put up with the occasional inconvenience of air travel. Such as getting on a flight in Philadelphia (late) at 6:45 p.m. with (too much) carry-on luggage and two very tired little children, only to be told around 7 p.m. that we all had to get off with all of our things because the air conditioning wasn't functioning properly and we might have to switch planes, and then waiting another hour or so in the airport and then getting on again (all the time with the same two exhausted children and excessive number of carry-ons), before finally taking off three hours late. That's not fun, but it sure beats a month of sea-sickness and possible shipwreck and subsequent death.

2. In any culture, new, familiar, or home, stereotypes are truly helpful (which I suppose means that they are necessary). Parisians tend to be less friendly but I have fewer examples to the contrary from my first week here. The kind woman at the town hall who gave me information about day cares in the 13th arrondissement. The man in the metro today who held an extended conversation with my two-year-old. Et-cetera.

3. So let's not dwell too long on the stereotypes, but rather on the important generalization that people are people whether American or French or Mongolian.

Notre Dame de Paris
4. On a similar note, clichés can be quite enjoyable. I now own a watch that I bought a block from Notre Dame for 6 euros and that has the Eiffel Tower in the center. So what? It was cheap, I like the way it looks, and it works.

5. The key to clichés, of course, is too make them your own. It's my watch now, not just another piece of jewelry with a cliché on it. When I taught creative writing to high school students, I told them to avoid clichéd settings . . . unless they made them fresh. For example, there are probably no settings more cliché for a short story than Times Square or the Eiffel Tower. Yet if I tell you about the time I went up the Eiffel Tower several years ago (haven't been up yet this time around) and thought I was going to throw up because I hate heights, and I said so out loud to my friends, and then realized that everyone else on the elevator understood what I said because, hey, they were also all Americans, okay then the setting becomes a whole lot less cliché.

6. I love worshiping with people from various "tongues and nations." I have that in America, since I attend a church with a lot of international university students, and where we also assist in the Hispanic ministry. But it's wonderful to experience it in another culture too.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Word: Synesthesia

Last summer, I was at the AATF conference in Montreal, and a colleague and friend was telling me about her dissertation on literature and synesthesia. I have to confess that I did not even know the word synesthesia until that conversation. There is research behind synesthesia.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Extrait de "Magnificat"

Soyez béni, mon Dieu, qui m'avez délivré des idoles,
Et qui faites que je n'adore que Vous seul,
    et non point Isis et Osiris,
Ou la Justice, ou le Progrès, ou la Vérité,
    ou la Divinité, ou l'Humanité,
    ou les Lois de la Nature, ou l'Art, ou la Beauté,
Et qui n'avez pas permis d'exister à toutes ces choses
    qui ne sont pas, ou le Vide laissé par votre absence.

--de "Magnificat" dans Cinq Grandes Odes de Paul Claudel

Friday, August 17, 2012

Avertissements au lecteur

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
En lisant Du contract social de Rousseau, j'ai trouvé un petit avertissement au lecteur dans le premier chapitre du livre 3 :
J'avertis le lecteur que ce chapitre doit être lu posément, et que je ne sais pas l'art d'être clair pour qui ne veut pas être attentif.
Tout comme l'avertissement de Wittgentstein dans Tractatus, cet avertissement m'a semblé à la fois légèrement insultant et comique. Je pense employer tous les deux dans un livre moi-même un jour.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Children's Spanglish

Nuestro hijo de dos años habla bien el inglés igual que el español . . . por un niño de dos años. Claro que mezcla los dos idiomas a veces. Pero su entendimiento lingüístico está creciendo rápidamente y da risa también. El otro día, él había visto una foto de una alberca o algo con agua y él dijo, "¡Es para swimar!" Por lo menos, sabe usar la morfema "ar" para añadirla a la palabra inglesa.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Poll: Your Interest in the Olympics

The Olympics are here again. Just how interested are you in the Olympics game, an international gathering of the world's best amateur athletes, who are in it for no money or corporate sponsorships, and who are exposed to the highest level of fair competition presided over by the least-biased judges and referees in order to arrive at a final medal count that best reflects the total athletic prowess and opportunity of each nation?

(Okay, that was little bit sarcastic. To be fair to the Olympics, sports, after all, are at their core about inequality.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections: Mexico

This is the seventh in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The first six posts were on the elections in, Taiwan, RussiaSenegal, France, Egypt, and Paraguay (not technically an election).

A week ago, on July 2, Enrique Peña Nieto became the next president of Mexico, defeating Andrés Manuel López Obrador on the left and Josefina Vázquez Mota on the right.

This is good news for those who see Peña Nieto as the best option to  redirect the Mexican economy and the . Many considered Vázquez Mota to be less than fully competent, though she is from the same party as the last two presidents, and many others considered López Obrador to be discredited from the way he handled himself after the last campaign. This is also good news for those who want to see the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) back on power, as it had been for decades before Fox and Calderón, the last two Mexican presidents and from the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN).
This is bad news for those think that Peña Nieto represents the same old PRI corruption, tied too closely with the biggest TV networks in Mexico. This is bad news for those who believe him to be more just a pretty face than a serious politician who can fix Mexico's problems.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Today in Language: David Crystal

David Crystal was born July 6, 1941. He could be considered the Stephen Hawking of linguistics.

Crystal, like Hawking, is British. Also like Hawking, and more to the point, he has popularized an academic discipline. That is not say he has not done significant if arcane (which is normal) work within the academic discipline itself--he has. But helping us understand better how the world works--whether in regard to physics or language or God's sovereignty--is I would venture more significant and probably even harder than arcane research.

Crystal has made many of the facets of language clear to us when we thought we understood how it worked but in reality were lost in the dark. Two of his more successful popular books are The Stories of English and Txtng: The Gr8 Db8.

2012 Presidential (Non-)Elections: Paraguay

This is the sixth in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The first five posts were on the elections in Taiwan, RussiaSenegal, France, and Egypt.

On June 22, Luis Federico Franco Gómez became president of Paraguay. This was technically not an election, but the political circumstances and of course the change of a head of state are significant. Franco was of course the next in line, as he had been vice president to Fernando Lugo, who was impeached on the 21st in a controversial move by the Paraguayan Senate. And he was elected by the people in 2008 to be Lugo's second-in-command.

This is bad news for those think that Lugo's impeachment amounted to a coup. Lugo accepted his impeachment but did refer to it as a "parliamentary coup." It also bad news for those who liked Lugo because of his close ties with Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and his Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.

This is good news for those who want to uphold Paraguay's constitution and those who want to see Paraguay move a bit further away from Chávez and the direction he is trying to take the continent.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections: Egypt

This is the fifth in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The first four posts were on the elections in Taiwan, RussiaSenegal and France.

On June 18, the election commission in Egypt declared the Mohammed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, had won the Egyptian presidential election. This is good news for many of the Muslims in Egypt who were scandalized by the more liberal, secular waves of former dictator Hosni Mubarak and who want Egypt to return to the fold of Islamist Middle Eastern countries. This is bad news for probably most of the people who actually made the Arab Spring last year and wanted real change and even democracy in Egypt.

In the West, this is being regarded largely as the end of a fizzled revolution, with the military still holding actual power much as it had even under Mubarak.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections: France

This is the fourth in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The first three posts were on the elections in Taiwan, Russia, and Senegal.

On May 6, François Hollande, the candidate of the Socialiste Party in France (PS - Parti Socialiste) won a run-off presidential election against incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. A series of events (the whole DSK scandal), gaffes on Sarkozy's part (making him less and less liked by the French), and economic problems (enough said), turned Hollande from an also-ran to the president of the République for the next five years.

This is good news for those who feared the growing more of the extreme-right Front National and the ways in which they thought Sarkozy was leaning that way (though in the more mainstream conservative party UMP). This is bad news for those who did like Sarkozy's more capitalist, pro-American ways.

A Simile for Jet Lag

Getting over jet lag (especially with little children) is like turning a big ship. It cannot simply be flipped around on a whim; it takes a little while, and some patience, to get it to change course slowly.

That said, if you have any remedies for jet lag (medecines, foods, techniques) do share. They would currently be more helpful to me than a simile.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Back from Japan

As I said almost a month ago, my family and I were on a missions trip to Japan for the past seven weeks. I thought more blogging would happen than actually did, but I'm back now and will start up again, amid jet lag and children waking my wife and me up at 1 and then 5 a.m. every day.

The picture is of Yoro Falls, in the town of Yoro, one of five places we visited churches in with our team (Narashino, Nagoya, Yoro, Seki, and Iruma, all in central Honshu, the main island of Japan).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 2012 Solar Eclipse

Blogging has been sparce around here lately, mainly because I have been in Japan on a missions trip for a while. But last week, while in Nagoya, I saw a full solar eclipse. It was Monday, May 21, and it was the first time in nearly a millenium that a solar eclipse had been visible from this area of the world.

So that raises the important linguistic question, which language has the more descriptive word for "solar eclipse"?

English: solar eclipse (literally, "failure to appear [on the part of the sun]")
Spanish: eclipse solar
French: éclipse solaire
Japanese: 日食 (literally, "sun eating" or "an eating of the sun")

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Voting for Top Language Blogs

Don't forget to vote over the next couple of weeks for your favorite language blogs (and Facebook and Twitter pages). Check out the lists over at Lexiophiles--and vote for Langue or Parole? (if you really think it's the best).
Vote the Top 100 Language Professional Blogs 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Out of the Mouth of Babes

Evening devotions with our two-year-old, Jeremy, have come from a bilingual Japanese-English book titled Jesus and the Cross. It is a compilation of Scripture accompanied by illustrations.

Tonight's illustration was a slightly more graphic version than the one here of Jesus being beaten as he carries his cross. Jeremy understands that only Jesus is good in this story and that many bad men are around him. As we looked at the picture and read the passage tonight, he pointed to a Roman soldier flogging Jesus, and very quietly said, "It's Jeremy."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Top 100 Language Lovers 2012

I was nominated again this year to be in the Lexiophiles Top 100 Language Lovers competition! I didn't exactly win (or even place) last year, but it's cool to be part of the competition. I was put in the Language Professionals' Blogs category. Cool. I'm a Language Professional.

Voting starts on May 15th, so if you like Langue or Parole?, feel free to vote for me then. Hey, I don't mind if you vote for me.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Look it up, it's not a word! I found out because I looked it up when my wife texted me the following: "CaniculaterAbaa."

I initially thought that she was using auto-completion and that the cell phone changed what she was texting to something else. Then I figured out that she was saying (without spaces) "Can I see/call [not sure which] you later?" asking me either where to find me or for me to wait to call her. I was trying to call her while she was in a meeting.

I'm still trying to figure out what she meant by "Abaa" (or what the cell phone changed her texting to). Mby it ws jst hr bsntmnddly pnchng xtr bttns.

Ah, the joys of texting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Movie Review: A Better Life - Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part review of A Better Life. The first part dealt more with the background issue of illegal immigration, whereas this part focuses more on the movie itself.

In the movie, neither the illegal (representative of all illegals, but particularly those with upright motives) nor the police (representative of the legal system, including courts, prisons, and immigration) is entirely at fault. Both are stuck in an imperfect, human system.

The viewer is led to sympathize with the illegal man, an honest landscaper who wants nothing but to work hard so that his one son can have a better life. He's away from home; his wife left him when his son was little; he has next to nothing; when he does acquire something (a lawn business and pickup with equipment) it gets stolen from him. And yet, the movie does not excuse what he does wrong nor does it try to show him as a man victimized and ruined by the consequences of his actions.

Apart from the social issue of the film and the plight of many illegals in the U.S., the movie also has simply great acting. The father-son dynamic is beautiful, a word one might usually use of a mother-daughter relationship in a film.

In addition to the acting, the setting and language are extremely fitting. It is set in urban Los Angeles, and the mix of Spanish and English (including street language in both) is pitch perfect. It is an English-language film, but it naturally switches to Spanish with English subtitles on occasion, yet this is never awkward or unnatural. The highest praise that can be given to all of these elements--language, setting, acting--is that they contribute to the storyline and never distract. I only thought about them when I tried to so that I could analyze the film.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Movie Review: A Better Life - Part 1

This is the first part of a two-part review. This first part of the movie review focuses on the background issue. The second part focuses on the movie itself.
A Better Life is probably one of the better movies of 2011. It has excellent acting for an excellent story, covering the range of human emotion and experience without an unrealistically tragic or idealistic resolution. But above all, it handles a charged political issue (illegal immigration in the United States) from a decidedly apolitical perspective.

I am keenly interested in the illegal immigration issue because my wife is both Mexican and legal (and has always been legal and is now a citizen). Because of her nationality, and because we both speak Spanish, we have many Hispanic friends, a majority of whom are probably illegal. My issue with the illegal immigration issue, however, is that people on either side tend to be blind to valid arguments of the other.

On the one hand, many people tend to want to absolve illegals of all responsibility for having broken the law. These people tend to treat illegals as mere victims--victims of an uncaring American society and of a broken immigration system. I have even seen Hispanic periodicals that go so far as to try to compare the plight of illegal immigrants to the Holocaust. A massive fail, especially this week.

On the other hand, many other people tend to regard illegal immigrants as feckless criminals. These people may really look down on illegals, perhaps even with a trace of racism, and see no solution but to deport them or at least crack down on them as rigorously as possible under current immigration laws.

In reality, and to speak in generalities of a "typical" illegal: any illegal has broken the law. But it may have been an unwitting offense. But continuing to reside illegally is not an unwitting offense. But the illegal is not homicidal or criminal in any way. But the illegal does create a certain burden for society. But the illegal usually also contributes to society. But the illegal does not have any recognized rights. But the illegal is a human and should be treated humanely. But . . . what do we do?

The two key moral issues are rule of law and gravity of offense. In regard to the rule of law, any country needs to do its best to enforce laws (not look the other way when confronted with offenses). And any country should also revise its unjust, inefficient, or outdated laws.

In regard to the gravity of the offense, there is a qualitative difference between an offense that per se violates both human law and divine law (e.g., murder) and an offense that violates only human law (e.g., illegal immigration). The latter is still immoral because ultimately it violates God's moral law to obey human authorities. But the act per se is not evil.

This movie shows all of these tensions. No one is entirely right or wrong. Such is the result of imperfect human systems of government. And yet the movie never makes itself just about the plight of the illegals or the justice of the U.S. government. And for that, it is a success.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pragmatics and a Pragmatic Apology

Ozzie Guillén is a famous and successful baseball manager, currently helming the Miami Marlins baseball team--and he is a person who should probably just plan to be quiet when in public. His most recent loosening of the tongue got him in trouble because 1) he said that he loved and respected Fidel Castro (who should certainly be loved, though not in the way Guillén meant, but should certainly not be respected) and 2) he said this as the manager of the Miami Marlins, who have a huge new stadium in the middle of Little Havana in Miami, where thousands of people who have all but had their lives ruined by the evil of Castro live and work.

So Guillén apologized. He was right to, if it was sincere. I can't judge whether it was, but I can find fault with at least one thing he said in his apology, that makes me wonder slightly if it was a purely pragmatic apology. As quoted in the Los Angeles Times article, the manager said, "I was thinking in Spanish and I said it wrong in English."

Huh? Which word is he talking about? His "love" or his "respect" for Castro? Or something else? There's no way that could have come out wrong in English (nor am I anything less than highly skeptical that he was thinking in Spanish when he said it in English). Even someone with English skills way below Guillén's could not be excused for failing to say the right word in English in that case. Those are not highly technical words.

The sad thing is, a lot of people will buy his argument of linguistic confusion without thinking about it. But it's bogus. Fortunately, the rest of his argument fully owns up to his guilt and the impropriety of what he said.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

News Flash: Bilingualism Can Improve Brain Function

Please note that I did not make a false claim or sensationalize the truth with my headline. The same could not be said for a recent opinion piece in the New York Times: "Why Bilinguals Are Smarter."

Nevertheless, the piece is a helpful overview of the well-established, and fairly well-known, benefits of bilingualism.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


最近The Toyota Wayを読んでいて、大成功のトヨタ自動車株式会社の重要な。「改善」という考え方は何よりも中心な原理です。改善というのは、


Thursday, March 29, 2012

On Women, International Women's Day, and Comprehensive Exams

This post is quite late. It was supposed to go up on March 8, because that is International Women's Day and, coincidentally, also my wife's birthday.

Any way, 21 days late, Happy International Women's Day, to my wife in particular, and Happy Birthday to her as well! The reason blogging has been such a slog around here at Langue or Parole? recently is that my woman has been preparing for her doctoral comps and just last Saturday completed them.

That means that I have been much more occupied with household work, although I like to think that I generally do a good bit of the chores and babysitting, being part of my generation's well-documented trend of having women more involved in work and men more involved in the home. But studying for doctoral exams is no mean task, and I was happy to help my wife out during that time. I am proud of and thankful for the wife God has given me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 Presidential Elections: Senegal

This is the third in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The first two posts were on the elections in Taiwan and Russia.

The Senegalese can be happy today for a peaceful presidential election that ended with the loss of the current president, Abdoulaye Wade, to Macky Sall.

Around the world this is being hailed as a victory for democracy in Africa, due both to the peaceful nature of the transition and also the fact that Wade stepped down after 12 years. His attempt at a third term had sparked violent protest.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy First Birthday!

Langue or Parole? turns 1 today. I'm so proud. The March 23, 2011, entry provides an opportunity to reminisce.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An African-American South African?

Recently I read a paper in which a student referred to a person in South Africa as an African American. Puzzled, I inquired whether the person was a South African or a black person from the U.S. It was a South African.

It's fine if people want to use the phrase "African American," but it can be used only of Americans who have black skin. Saying that a black South African is African American makes as much sense as saying a white South African is Caucasian American.

The source of the confusion is easily identifiable. A politically correct term (at one time) was transplanted to another country/culture where it is, in very technical linguistic terms, a contradiction or, even more technically, an oxymoron. And this was done to avoid the word "black," I assume. But whatever good intentions are behind politically correct vocabulary such as "African American," their correct use in context is even more important.

So what should have the student done? Well, he or she could have talked about an African South AFrican, which sounds, well, dumb. Or he or she could have said "black South African," but why is it necessary to highlight someone's skin color? Or he or she could have simply said "South African."