Biografies lingüístiques

Textos per a la sostenibilitat lingüística

Tag Archive 'ciències'

Des 19 2008

Eric da Silva

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Des 12 2008

A never-ending self-discovery voyage

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Hello all, Although a bit awkward, I will attempt to write my linguistic bio…. in English. Why English? Because I would like it to be understood by the largest possible number of people. As a starting point, let me tell you a bit about my linguistic credentials and my life in general. I was born in Tucumán, in north-western Argentina. Argentina is a strange place, linguistically speaking. We speak officially Spanish, but we had had such a strong Italian immigration at the end of the 19th century and beginning of 20th that our accent (to other Spanish speakers) sounds weirdly Italian. There were off course other immigrations, mostly from Galicia and the rest of Spain, from the Middle East (mostly from the area that encompass today’s Syria and Lebanon), from the former tsarist empire (mostly the Ukraine) and from all over Europe. The linguistic result of this melange is that we speak a (grammatically) weird Spanish with many words that come from all over the world. There is also another strong local ingredient to this mixture which is the fact that many of the original inhabitants of northern Argentina were people who used to speak dialects of Quechua and Aymara, being the former the language of the Incas and the later an even older language spoken mostly in Bolivia. I myself don’t speak any Quechua, but there are many bilingual people in Argentina who are actually ignored by the one-size-fits-all Spanish-based educational system. Some statistics put the number of Quechua speakers in my country as high as one million! The Spanish colonial empire tried hard to erase these people’s culture and language… and the Argentinean state continues its work! Being the language of the vanquished, Quechua resurfaces in many words that people speak normally without being aware of its origin (as the word “cancha” for pitch field or the word “llama” which has entered many languages).I encountered my second language when I was about 12 years old. My parents decided to go on holidays to southern Brazil and we had such a good time there that they decided to buy a flat on the beach and go on holidays there for the next 10 years. I made lots of friends among my Brazilian neighbours and learnt Portuguese in the best possible way: unaware. Now I am not only fluent in conversational Portuguese, but I associate the crispy “xi” sounds of the Brazilian accent with the most beautiful holidays and some of the best time of my life. Every time I hear a Brazilian speaking I beg him or her to carry on because the accent makes me feel so good! It is like been 15 and on holidays again! Being from a very academic-oriented family I was bullied by my parents into taking English lessons while I was in secondary school. I think I did 6 years on top of the usual English lessons of the school curriculum. In the end I was able to speak (Tarzan-like) English and to read and write sort of OK. That worked out to be a blessing when I decided to do a career in Science and applied for a MSc degree in the UK. By that time I was married and went to live in Bristol (in the south-west of England) with my wife. The one-year trip turned out to be 13 years. I had a son who is now 12 and was born in Bristol and speaks English as a first language. While we lived in the UK we managed to keep his Spanish alive by implementing a tough “Spanish at home” rule so that he would at least have a small circle at home where he could practice his second language. It was hard work but it worked in the end. Three years ago I received a nice job offer to come to work in Catalunya and here we are… the three of us. My wife soon got a job teaching English (she did her university degree in the UK). For me and my wife Catalan culture and lifestyle were very close to our own life back in Tucumán, however for my son the situation was more difficult. We decided that it was best for him to attend normal Catalan and Spanish schooling instead of the English and Spanish option that some other parents choose. We think we can make a good job at keeping his English alive at home while he learns a new language (Catalan) and reinforces his second language (Spanish) at school. Off course the first two years were difficult for him, (after all I didn’t have to go to school in Brazil, I was always on holidays) mostly because he had to do his schooling in Catalan. I am very proud of him now, because he is sorting out the initial problems and now he can speak Catalan! Isn’t it wonderful!

At home we now speak mostly English and Spanish but now I am learning Catalan (and hopefully my wife will soon follow me!). It is not that our life is a bed of roses, but we are happy with our choices, especially with our linguistic choices. All the best…. and spread the word!


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Des 12 2008

Biografia de Natalia de Ávila

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