27 April 2010

Language and culture

I'm preparing for my lecture tomorrow at UC Berkeley on why learning the Filipino language (or any other Philippine language) is important if a non-Filipino is to truly understand Filipino culture.  I intend to talk about everyday greetings such as "How are you?", which Americans routinely answer with "I'm good."  The same greeting in Filipino ("Kamusta?") is answered in various ways, depending on the actual state of the responder.  What is merely throat-clearing or a polite icebreaker for Americans is a real expression of concern (answered by an honest description of one's emotional state at the moment) for Filipinos.  From there, I intend to go into deeper ways to penetrate Philippine culture through language (or languages).  From everyday language to literature is a big step, but if the students attending the lecture turn out to be more sophisticated than the average student, we could go into multilingual literary criticism.

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