4/28 How Language Shapes Us + English Funhouse!(Host: Kat)

4/28 How Language Shapes Us + English Funhouse!(Host: Kat)

文章Kat C » 週五 4月 27, 2018 12:57 am


Dear friends,

At the Apr. 28 meeting I’m hosting we’ll (again! :mrgreen: ) try something a bit different from our usual format - games and activities with some learning mixed in. Plenty of discussion as well! Hope you'll enjoy it. :lol:

To get the most out of this experience please prepare for the meeting as much as you can. Thanks! :love:


TED Talk: How Language Shapes the Way We Think

(I haven't figured out how to embed a non-Youtube video... Help us if you know how! :wink: )

It's like the chicken-and-egg question: Which comes first? Our thoughts, or the language that forms our thoughts?

We may think that the language is but a tool that we use to convey ideas that we've come up with ourselves, yet often times it's the language that gives meaning to the way we think and feel. How so? What are some examples and findings that linguists can tell us (in their language, of course! :lol: )? Let's explore!

Assignment No.1:

A. Please give 3 examples each of how Chinese and English language describe "time" (e.g., a "long-running" TV show, "day and night", "一日三秋", etc.). And 3 proverbs or adages about "time".

B. Please make a list of 3 common English phrases and expressions that use the word "time" (e.g., a "time-honored" tradition, "time and again," etc.).


In our language, how do we "tell" time? Do we break them into units? Then do we have a "shortest" unit or a "smallest" unit?

"Swedish and English speakers, for example, tend to think of time in terms of distance—what a long day, we say. Time becomes an expanse one has to traverse. Spanish and Greek speakers, on the other hand, tend to think of time in terms of volume—what a full day, they exclaim. Time becomes a container to be filled. These linguistic differences, according to a recently published study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, actually affect our perception of time’s passage."

"In one experiment, participants looked at growing lines. “You have one line growing four inches, and it takes three seconds to grow. And then you would have another line that grows, say, six inches, and that one also takes three seconds to grow.
Participants were instructed in their respective native languages to estimate roughly how much time it took for the lines to grow. Because the visual overlapped with the way Swedish speakers speak about time, the researchers expected that they’d find it tougher to estimate how much time had passed. And they did. While Spanish speakers knew that three seconds had passed regardless of how quickly the line grew, Swedish speakers tended to think that more time had passed when the line was longer at the end of it. There are limits to this: it's not as if a Swede would think ages had passed if a line grew super long in just three seconds. But in the mid-time conditions Bylun outlined, they struggled."

"“The Swedish speakers tend to think that the line that grows longer in distance, takes longer,” said Bylund. “Spanish speakers aren’t tricked by that. They seem to think that it doesn’t matter how much the line grows in distance; it still takes the same time for it to grow.”"

(Excerpts from The language you speak changes your perception of time / Popular Science)

"For an American, time is truly money. In a profit-oriented society, time is a precious, even scarce, commodity. It flows fast, like a mountain river in the spring, and if you want to benefit from its passing, you have to move fast with it. With this orientation Americans can say that their time costs $50 an hour. Americans also talk about wasting, spending, budgeting and saving time."

"Southern Europeans are multi-active, rather than linear-active [read Lewis's analysis of cultures as multi-active, linear-active, and reactive]. The more things they can do at the same time, the happier and the more fulfilled they feel. They organize their time (and lives) in an entirely different way from Americans, Germans and the Swiss. Multi-active peoples are not very interested in schedules or punctuality. They pretend to observe them, especially if a linear-active partner or colleague insists on it, but they consider the present reality to be more important than appointments. In their ordering of things, priority is given to the relative thrill or significance of each meeting.

Spaniards, Italians and Arabs will ignore the passing of time if it means that conversations will be left unfinished. For them, completing a human transaction is the best way they can invest their time. For an Italian, time considerations will usually be subjected to human feelings. "Why are you so angry because I came at 9:30?" he asks his German colleague. "Because it says 9:00 in my diary," says the German. "Then why don't you write 9:30 and then we'll both be happy?" is a logical Italian response. The business we have to do and our close relations are so important that it is irrelevant at what time we meet. The meeting is what counts. Germans and Swiss cannot swallow this, as it offends their sense of order, of tidiness, of planning."

(Excerpts from How Different Cultures Understand Time / Business Insider)

Discussion Questions:

1. What's the concept behind the Chinese word 久? Does "long" in English mean the same thing? If in English "time" is a linear concept, how is it in Chinese? When in English we are "running out of time," how do we express it in Chinese? Is it different between Mandarin and Taiwanese?

2. Is "一炷香的時間" long or short for you? In Aymara (spoken in Peru), the word for future (qhipuru) means “behind time”: we can’t look into the future just like we can’t see behind us. The past is already known to us, we can see it just like anything else that appears in our field of vision, in front of us. Is that a similar concept as "後天“? In Hindi, instead of "yesterday" or "tomorrow," "kal" is used to mean "one day away from today," and the tenses or context will tell you which it means. Is it like "這幾天" in Chinese, which can be used for either the future or past? Why do some languages seem to make time more fluid and less defined?

3. Do languages convey clear cultural messages? Can we tell from the time expressions in Chinese our attitude towards the value of time, punctuality, and how we should manage time - or even our life?

4. Most languages clearly make a distinction between types of relatives - if an "uncle" is your mother's brother or your father's brother or your mother's sister's husband and sometimes even distinguishes age. But English uses a vague term which somehow means "brother of parent or husband of sibling of parent." "Cousin" is a similar example. Why do you think that is?

5. How do different languages describe "love"? In Costa Rica, the Ticos often call their significant other “media naranja,” which means “the other half of their orange.” In Boro language of India, "Onsra" means "loving for the last time; that bittersweet feeling you get when you know a love won’t last." Does "海枯石爛" or "如膠似漆" express the Chinese ideals of love, and have we made them unattainable by such intense descriptions?

(For a fun read: 23 Untranslatable Foreign Words That Describe Love Better Than You Ever Thought / Thought Catalog)

Assignment No. 2:

A. Please translate into Chinese or other languages the following account given by an English speaker:

"I broke my arm last week in a game! It hurt like hell. And I had to get three stitches. They're out now."

B. Compare the translated versions of the same event. Write down the who, what, when, where and how conveyed by the different languages. What information has to be given, and what facts are not clearly stated? Is there a point of view you can discern - who does the action, and who's to blame, if anyone?

English - or any language - is simply fun! :lol:


3:45 ~ 4:00pm Greetings & Free Talk / Ordering Beverage or Meal / Newcomer introduction
4:00 ~ 6:20pm Activities and discussions
6:20 ~ 6:30pm Concluding Remarks / Announcements
聚會時間:請準時 4:00 pm 到 ~ 約 6:30 pm 左右結束
地址、電話:台北市濟南路三段25號 地圖 (02) 2740-2350
捷運站:板南線 忠孝新生站 3 號出口
走法:出忠孝新生站 3 號出口後,沿著巷子(忠孝東路三段10巷)走約 2 分鐘,到了濟南路口,左轉走約 2 分鐘即可看到。
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1. 文章是否需要列印請自行斟酌,但與會者請務必自行列印 Questions for discussion。
2. 與會者請先閱讀過文章,並仔細想過所有的問題,謝謝合作!

1. 請事先準備2~3分鐘的英語自我介紹;會議結束前可能會請你發表1~2分鐘的感想。
2. 請事先閱讀文章以及主持人所提的討論問題,並事先寫下自己所欲發表意見的英文。
3. 全程以英語進行,參加者應具備中等英語會話能力,對任一討論問題,能夠以5到10句英文表達個人見解。
4. 在正式加入之前,可以先來觀摩三次,觀摩者亦須參與討論。正式加入需繳交終身會費 NT$1,000。
Kat C
文章: 338
註冊時間: 週三 9月 08, 2010 10:31 am

Re: 4/28 How Language Shapes Us + English Funhouse!(Host: Ka

文章Kooper » 週六 4月 28, 2018 9:46 am

This will be the first meeting where I have to think about answers to the questions dual-linguistically. I suddenly feel Chinese becomes tough going. :shock:
YOYO member
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註冊時間: 週三 4月 11, 2007 11:40 pm

Re: 4/28 How Language Shapes Us + English Funhouse!(Host: Ka

文章Kat C » 週六 4月 28, 2018 10:43 am

Isn't that interesting? When I first started teaching English in high school - and that was before my TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) training - I found English all of a sudden very foreign to me too somehow! Students asked questions that had never occurred to me, and the English structures seemed arbitrary when I tried to package them into neat rules. Later I went into translation and interpreting work, and things got doubly confusing! It's like having to sing two totally different songs at the same time - or to switch back and forth between genres. :shock:

It'd be fun today to see how we all do when we think about multiple languages and their vast "universes" at one sitting! :mrgreen: :lol:
Kat C
文章: 338
註冊時間: 週三 9月 08, 2010 10:31 am

Re: 4/28 How Language Shapes Us + English Funhouse!(Host: Ka

文章Michael-liu » 週日 4月 29, 2018 2:18 am

The following is from the article Kat provided. I tried my best to think of some similar Chinese expressions to following foreign words,
but still can not finish all of them. Let's brainstorm together and feel free to replace my Chinese expressions if you can come up with a better one

1. Saudade – Portuguese
The feeling of intense longing for a person or place you love but is now lost. A haunting desire for what is gone.

2. Mamihlapinatapei – Yagan
A wordless, yet meaningful look between two people who both desire to initiate something, but both are too scared to initiate themselves.
=> 眼神交會 欲語還休

3. Koi No Yokan – Japanese
The sudden knowledge upon meeting someone that the two of you are destined to fall in love.

4. Gigil – Filipino
The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is irresistibly cute.

5. La douleur exquise – French
The heartbreaking pain of wanting someone you can’t have.

6. Ya’aburnee – Arabic
This phrase translates to “you bury me.” This is the hope that the person you love will outlive you so you can spare the pain of living without them.

7. Forelsket – Norwegian
That overwhelming euphoric feeling you experience when you’re falling in love with someone.
=> 心中小鹿亂撞

8. Onsra – Boro language of India
Loving for the last time; that bittersweet feeling you get when you know a love won’t last.

9. Queesting – Dutch
When you invite someone into your bed for some pillow talk.
=> 蓋棉被 純聊天

10. Kilig – Tagalog
The heady-sublime rush you experience right after after something good happens, particularly in love/dating. Like running into your crush, kissing someone for the first time, hearing someone you love tell you they love you too for the first time.

11. Cavoli riscaldati – Italian
This literally means “reheated cabbage” but the phase describes the moment when you attempt to start up a failed relationship or love affair.

12. Iktsuarpok – Inuit
The anticipation you feel when you’re waiting for someone to come over to your house.

13. Kara sevde – Turkish
Meaning “black love” this is a lovesick term for when you feel that passionate, blinding love for another person.
=> 愛到卡慘死(台語)? 相思之苦?

14. Ilunga – Bantu
A person who is willing to forgive abuse the first time; tolerate it the second time, but never a third time.
=> 事不過三

15. Viraag – Hindi
The emotional pain of being separated from a loved one.

16. Fensterln – German
When you have to climb through someone’s window in order to have sex with them without their parents knowing about it.

17. L’esprit de escalier – French
The inescapable feeling you get when you leave a conversation then think about all the things you should have said.

18. Meraki – Greek
Doing something with soul, creativity, or love.

19. Fernweh – German
Feeling homesick for a place you have never been to.

20. Yuanfen – Chinese
A relationship by fate or destiny.

21. Wabi-Sabi – Japanese
This concept has been written about and discussed a lot but essentially this means, “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.”

22. Prozvonit – Czech
This word describes the experience of calling a phone and letting it ring just once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money. In Spanish, the phrase for this word is “dar un toque,” or, “to give a touch.”

23. Razbliuto – Russian
The sentimental feeling you can often feel towards someone you used to loved but no longer do.
=> 藕斷絲連 舊情難忘
YOYO member
文章: 539
註冊時間: 週五 4月 24, 2009 6:09 pm

Re: 4/28 How Language Shapes Us + English Funhouse!(Host: Ka

文章Kooper » 週日 4月 29, 2018 11:23 pm

Attendees(17): Apple, Brian, David, Debby, Gloria, Jay, John, Kat(host), Kooper, Lawrence, Leon, Michael, Sabrina, Stephen, Tashi, Way, Yaya
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文章: 2495
註冊時間: 週三 4月 11, 2007 11:40 pm

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