English Is Not Normal


English is a weird language; it has odd rules and is unlike many other languages. For example, it’s the only language in which a present tense requires a special ending only in the third‑person singular, -s. Out of all the Indo-European languages, English is the only one that doesn’t assign gender to nouns. It was interesting to learn about the history of English starting off as a kind of German language. Old English is nothing like the English that we speak now, reading sentences of old English seems like a completely different language. I found it special that English and Celtic have been the only documented languages that use the verb do. As an English second language speaker, I find this to be so confusing to explain to my non-English speaking family members: the verb “do” is used all the time! “They use it [do] to form a question, to make a sentence negative, and even just as a kind of seasoning before any verb.” This sentence made me laugh because it’s true, “do” is the seasoning of the English language!

Celebrating Black History Month: Deaf Culture and Black ASL


This article is about Black ASL, which is a dialect of ASL that was developed by black people during the period of segregation. The girl in the video claims that they are similar but the same difference is that BASL has “seasoning”. I definitely understand what she means as for signing in BASL one would use both hands as opposed to only one for ASL. She compares BASL to what AAVE or ebonics is to “formal” English, stating that they both have terms and nuances that are more commonly used in the Black community. It’s interesting to learn that just how spoken English differs in what part of the country you live in, so does sign language, including BASL. This fact highlights how your environment heavily influences the way in which you communicate.

Reconstructing Latin America’s African past

For this month’s blog post I read the below article and watched the attached Ted talk on the Palenque people of Colombia. The Palenque people have lived in isolation for roughly 400 years, with no education and resources, and no official history. This group of people had no recolection or knowledge of their history or their origins. All they knew is that they were freedom fighters, the first officially free Black people anywhere in the Americas. They speak their own language, Palenquero, a Spanish-based creole language. Through studying their language and ultimately their DNA, professor Armin Schewegler managed to reconstruct their history and origins. 

It was fascinating to learn about their ritual language, for example when someone dies they chant a chant from Africa, and were moved by the words but they did not understand the meaning of what they sung. Once translated from its original language, Kikongo, one of these chants included a major clue to where this community came from: “From the Kongo people I am”.

As the research progressed through the years, more similarities were found between the Palenquero and Kikongo. For example, the word for cattle and snake is the same in both languages, and it became clear that there was a strong connection between these languages, however it was just a hypothesis. At this time population genetics had read linguists’s articles and wanted to team up to collect data in Palenque and in Africa, and obtained DNA from 42 population groups, and were able to zero in the Mayombe region of KiKongo, a very small community. The DNA data confirmed precisely what they hypothesized: the Palenque people came from Congo.

This is such a significant and emotional finding because this stigmatized group with no history now know their roots and have regained their pride, 400 years later.


Pop culture’s effect on language studying

This article suggests that there is a correlation between the popular Korean Netflix series, Squid Games, and the sudden increase in Korean language courses taken. Duolingo, an online language course service, reports that there was roughly a 40% increase of Korean courses in the U.S. and a spike of 76% by British users. “Language and culture are intrinsically connected and what happens in pop culture and media often influences trends in language and language learning,” said Duolingo spokesperson Sam Dalsimer. This makes me question pop culture’s effect on language learning, perhaps if more popular shows were played in different languages then those languages will also spike. However, I do believe that the spike is momentary, being that users will be interested in learning the new language for only a few weeks while the novelty of the language and the show wears off, unless something new in the media comes around to once again reinforce that desire to learn. I think it will be interesting to get some data to compare whether the effects of pop culture on language learning are momentary or significant.


Bridging languages

Bridging languages by Barbra Kelly

It was interesting to read this article and learn about the benefits of signing language. Sign language is not only beneficial to the deaf community, it also has benefits for people with language deficits. Before reading this article I thought teaching a child sing language would be counterproductive as they’re going to rely on it. However, I quickly learned that sign language works as a transitional device into lexical development as it provides a way for children to refer to objects when they do not have the spoken language to refer to said objects. Thus, it can be said that sign language plays a facilitating role in early language development.

A child might feel frustrated if they’re trying to talk and he is only able to make vocalizations that cannot be understood. Signing provides the child with confidence and allows him to communicate while establishing connections in the brain that are necessary for spoken language. For example, in the article, Gail would say sounds that appeared to be attempts at speech but was often not understood, and was never able to say the correct word after a language model. However, on the first day that she was taught the sign for flower she was able to manually sign it, yet still not able to verbalize it. This positive communication experience works as a reinforcer to continued communication, whereas language modeling would have failed and caused her to possibly become more frustrated.

For this month’s blog post I am discussing my research journey.

From the beginning, I knew that I wanted my research to be focused on bilingualism and autism, as a bilingual immigrant working with autistic children this really interested me; however, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was a bit tough for me to start thinking like a researcher: what did I want to find out, that hasn’t already been done. While trying to find an innovative way to intertwine both topics, every time I thought of something to do, research on it had already been done. I felt a bit discouraged in the beginning, it seemed that every research idea related to bilingualism and autism had already been either taken, couldn’t be completed within a year, was too open-ended, or not specific enough to be measurable. Without a doubt, developing a specific, measurable aim proved to be the most difficult part so far for me.

The evolution of my goal/aim:

My starting goal was: The research aims to understand the language learning experience and the social experience of bilingual (Spanish/English speaking) children with autism, ages 8-12.

My goal now: To compare what parents of typical and atypical children (18 months-3 years) are being told by professionals: should the native tongue be spoken at home?  [I’m pretty sure this is going to be my solid research aim, but I have a possible second goal I am thinking about including. ]

This opening paragraph that I wrote sums up the research I’ve read and why the research I want to do is important:

Based on previous research, parents do not know the benefits of raising their children as bilinguals. In the past, parents were advised not to speak to their child in two languages, as it might confuse them. More recent research has come out and highlighted the importance and benefits of speaking the native tongue at home.  However, some professionals might agree that this advice still pertains to parents with children with ASD, as the hallmark features of ASD are communication deficits. This study aims to compare the advice that typical and atypical parents are being told by professionals

After reading many (many) articles, I was able to pull inspiration from each, to create my own unique measurable aim. This process taught me that the most important part of research is definitely reading a lot, by doing so I was able to see what the literature was lacking and where the gaps were.

I’m at the part of my research now where I am working on my questionnaire to gather information from parent participants as well as refining participant background. This part of the process is equally intentional but it comes easier now that I have the foundation. It also contains a lot of reading as I am getting inspiration from parent surveys that other researchers have used in the past.

I’m excited to hear what you guys have experienced while creating your research aims, and how the journey so far has been for everyone!



The Simple Words That Save Lives

For this month’s blog post I read The Simple Words That Save Lives.


The article begins around a distressing 911 call, in which the caller’s mother is in crisis and cannot breathe. Unfortunately, the 911 operator and the caller are unable to effectively communicate which results in both feeling frustrated and the dispatcher hanging up on the caller. The woman was later pronounced dead.

After national news coverage, the dispatcher was fired and this sparked the conversation of how to best avoid miscommunications from the experiences of “expert talkers”. Something as small as using the word “speak” instead of the word “talk” when a detective wants to communicate with a suspect changes the way the conversation would go. People in crisis are not susceptible to the word talk because it’s not considered a meaningful word. I would have not thought that such a small and otherwise insignificant change would have such an impact.

Another example of this is when researchers were able to test the effectiveness of the prefix “any-” and “some-” by having a doctor ask “Is there _-thing else you want to address in the visit today?”. It was found that 53% of patients addressed other ailments when asked any-, and 90% raised other ailments when the prefix some- was used. This is because “any” has a closing-down function while “some” is more inviting and open-ended.

I found this article deeply interesting because these changes are not something that an average person is consciously thinking about when choosing which words to use. The article places significance on the importance and weight of words by showing how a message can be misconstrued or altered due to one simple modification. This information makes me want to become more aware of my own choice of words to be a more effective communicator and receive my desired outcome.