Sailing on the Danube with the Hungarians – Day 7

Wednesday is slightly different from previous schedules as we are now approaching the deadline for documentary film submission! Given the day for film editing, we are also provided the opportunity called ‘Foreigner Talk’, which a number of guest speakers will give an interesting lecture on cultural/linguistic relevant for about 30 minutes. There are two main sessions, each lasts for 2 hours (4 lectures per session), with one hour lunch break. Due to the slight confusion of the room location of the talk, there were not many at the start of the lecture, but more and more were attending later in the session. The first lecture was given by Dr Eszter Tarsoly who made a brief introduction by talking about her PhD thesis. She also proposed a number of questions relating to daily life and our language use. For example, she mentioned about her experience of being asked whether she was a Polish in a café. It turned out that almost everyone has more or less a stereotype or perception on how people from a particular region should pronounce certain languages. More interestingly, when such a stereotype does not fit the reality, people’s first instinct would go ‘oh, you don’t sound (stereotypical nationality)/you can’t be (stereotypical nationality)’ rather than ‘so my stereotype is not correct’. This phenomenon triggered our curiosity about linguistics and cultures. The second lecture by Dr Froso Argyi focused exclusively on linguistics, particularly childhood. The topic ‘heritage language’ has been so important as nowadays a substantial amount of people are at least bilingual. Moreover, of those people, there are many who have parents speaking one language whilst grown up in a different language setting. She talked a lot about why maintaining heritage language (the language one acquired that is not spoken in the majority environment) is important and how we can do that. Her proposal of ‘healthy linguistic diet’ sounded really interesting, and her talk on how being bilingual can affect our daily life (e.g. being beneficial to our health) made us really think about how we should balance/acquire new languages in this rapidly globalised world. Dr Kim Schulte who is currently in Spain gave us the third lecture via Skype. Amazing to try a Skype lecture and see him being so engaged. His lecture turned more specifically to one type of people – Romanians who immigrated to Spain. The similarity of Romanian and Spanish made Romanian immigrants quickly settled in the new country and they could easily adapt to a new language without feeling loss of home. However, what is particularly special is the second generation. As they tend to be able to fluently switch between Romanian and Spanish (Valencian too!), they gradually developed a new language which mixes Spanish and Romanian. This language is later interpreted as their unique (bi)cultural identity. This interpretation is so engaging as many of us here at UCL are also bilingual, it seems fun if we actually do a small research to see whether bilingual/multilingual students do create a special language and whether they represent their unique cultural identity!

-Yeiwei from the Hungarian Group


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