Nerdy Linguist

I spent a good chunk of last semester studying the effect of society and politics on language in Bolivia. I can only speak for the man I studied, but the results of that study were pretty surprising.
Have you ever read 1984? Do you remember Newspeak? In Newspeak, words that carried any rebellious connotations were deleted until the language would only allow a person to form positive, accepting statements about the government. In theory, if the people couldn't
speak negatively about Big Brother, they couldn't think negatively about him, either.
I went into my study just hoping to find semantic categories (think groups like "food words" "business words") where indigenous words were borrowed into Bolivian Spanish. What I found had nothing to do with semantic categories, but it had a lot to do with government and social class. I studied a man from the Bolivian middle class, and he refused to consciously borrow indigenous words into his Spanish, even though he knew an indigenous language. Why not borrow?
It has a lot to do with Morales, the current president of Bolivia. He's the first indigenous person to ever be elected president of the country, and he has some radical ideas. A lot of his ideology is socialistic. His view on language is far from Big Brother's. He is actually requiring all government officials to learn two of the most common indigenous languages. He's bringing back instruction in these languages in primary schools. And what do the people think? Well, the guy I interviewed thought it was pointless. To him, these languages have been without power for hundreds of years, and a few lessons isn't going to change that.
He likes the indigenous languages, he likes Spanish, and he likes to keep them separate. To him, the lower class uses indigenous languages, the upper class can borrow into their Spanish because they are secure enough in who their positions that they can say whatever they want, but the middle class has to keep both their languages pure. To give up their indigenous languages would be turning back on their heritage, their culture. To use these languages in their Spanish would make them look uneducated. Is this boring to you? To me, it's stuff that makes me want to grab a voice recorder and run after the next Bolivian I see!
Well, one thing's for sure. When I hit the streets of the country of my sangre Latina next week, I'm going to be listening to how people talk and asking them what they think. Bolivia is no 1984, and Bolivians can use whatever words they want to convey the most rebellious thoughts in the world if they desire. Can't wait to hear them.


Back to Bolivia

Two weeks from today I will be arriving at the beloved ViruViru airport in (hopefully) sunny Santa Cruz. I just checked the weather, and it looks like it's rainy but still in the 80s. After not leaving a building without a coat in the last four months, I'll take what I can get.

Usually when I go to Bolivia (2 out of the 3 times I've been there) I stay long enough that I don't really feel like a tourist. This time I'm only staying for 12 days, so tourist is all I'll have time to be. Heather and I have plans to visit the city of Cochabamba and tour around a little. I'm actually excited to see everything through new eyes.

One of my goals well I'm down there is to encourage my sister. She's been in Bolivia since last June, so I think she'll be ready for a visit from home. Polar Ice gum, hugs, and a few notes and pictures from little kids might be hiding somewhere in my suitcase.

Another goal: visit friends, kids in the homes, and my sister's church. I can't wait to step through the doors of the church and have old ladies come up to me and greet me with the typical kiss on the cheek, then kiss the other cheek and remind me that kissing both cheeks is the traditional way to greet. Lifting up my voice in worship with these people is a kind of fellowship I've grown to love. I've been practicing my little kid Spanish songs to sing at the orphanages.

I have all kinds of details to pull together before then, but once I'm on that plane, I'm running on hora Boliviana.



So I started blogging again this semester, thinking that with my ligher class load and lack of motivation to do schoolwork I'd have no trouble finding time to write. Then I found out I actually like all of my classes and want to do the reading for them. Add that to countless hours of watching The OC with my roommates and two jobs, and there is no longer time to update a blog.
But there is time. I just need to be a little more devoted, I think. So I'll start with a brief update of life as it applies to linguistics and missions, two things I'm devoted to writing about in here.
Linguistically: I just submitted a linguistic study I did to an undergraduate journal. I'll let you know when it gets kindly rejected. The paper examines the use of Quechua (an indigenous language of Bolivia) in Bolivian Spanish and the social and policial factors that play into its use.
I've committed to be really involved in my Spanish-speaking church, so that should mean more Spanish practice in the coming months.
In less than three weeks I go to Bolivia to spend two weeks with my big sister traveling through part of the country and visiting the kids I worked with (and listening to Quechua and Bolivian Spanish!)
Global Outreach: (my church recently controversially changed Missions to Global Outreach and missionary to cross-cultural worker:) I talked with my recruiter from Wycliffe the other day and officially decided to work for about two years after graduation before I start my training as a Bible translator. Now I'm job hunting and looking at volunteering in Minneapolis with the Latino community.
Last week was Missions Week at my school, and I got to meet with lots of awesome missions reps. I'm excited for what God is doing in the world and for the way he's still using the American church.
Been reading Romans and thinking about when, "those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand." Romans 15:21
Coming soon: Summary of my study and how it will impact my trip to Bolivia.