are comments written by students in "Anthro 33: Culture and Communication" at UCLA. They were either originally
sent to Professor Duranti via e-mail or written in class on a sheet called "comments/reflections", which was used in the late 1990s.
(Editorial note: the messages are reproduced as close as possible to the way they were written. No attempts have been made to change
spelling or punctuation. Material between brackets has been added.
Two brackets with three dots inside -- "[...]" -- mean that
part of the message has been left out. Some of the messages refer to material used in the course or to specific topics covered during lecture).
Subject: RE: Anthro33 - About the CD that you played today!
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 21:21:09 -0800
wow, prof. duranti, today's lecture, it was such an inspiring!!! how many times in my life i would get such thing? yes, that kind of....i can't learn or get it through books.... it is always stressful this time around, at the end of quarter, but we're in good mood to prepare final exams now. yay! thank you.
also, thank you so much for responding to my email last night. i'll look forward to taking the jazz class in next spring.
i have just a quick question. what was the name of the CD that you played today? i knew the song from the movie "LA confidential," but i do not know the name of the song. yes, i heard "louis armstrong."
Subject: by the way...
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 14:12:39 PST
Hello Professor Duranti,
I am a student in your Anthropology
33 class. i just wanted to point out that throughout the class i
realized that miscommunication because of culture can even happen within
a family. i mean, in my family it happens. my uncle and aunt, both who
grew up together in the same area get in arguments and feel insulted
because they take things the wrong way. my aunt is more involed in the
"mexican tijuana social" community and my uncle was more involved in the
"chicano" street community...when he makes jokes that are very blunt and
come off as very rude, my aunt get really insulted and cannot stand
him...its strange because they are both form san diego and both raised by
the same family but they are in different cultures in a way...today that
speech you gave was really good, i related to it in many ways...(so i
hope this will help my grade...just kidding)...i just wanted to point out
that i like your lectures without the powerpoint presentations, they
distract me. i feel like i get more out of the class just listening to
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2005 09:46:01 -0800 (PST)
Subject: The anthro 33 lecture on Thursday
Hello professor. I have two things to say about the
lecture on thursday. First of all, i would like to
point out that i like the way you had a handout ready
to take notes. It makes taking notes a lot easier (so
keep it up). My second thought that I came up with was
regarding the way people that are being studied would
act knowing that you are there to study them. Unless
the people that you are studying have a feeling that
you are a part of them, there is no way that they will
continue to act in the same ways that they do day in
and day out. For example, when you have a guest at
your house, you do not act the exact same as you do
when you are around just your family. I asked you
after lecture as to how long anthropologist stay at a
certain site and you said that it is usually one year.
I really dont think that one year is enough to get the
trust from the people that are under study. I wulld
guess that if a longer time was spent with them, and
once a connection was gained with those of the
society, then the true actions of the society would be visible.
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2005 02:13:46 -0800 (PST)
Hi Professor Duranti,
You were playing some really great music today at the beginning of class. I was wondering if you could please tell me what it was. Also, I like that you play music at the beginning. It makes the lecture more appealing. I highly recommend to do that at the beginning of every lecture!!! Anyway, have a good holiday weekend and I'll be seeing you in class!!!
(The music played was "Guitar Bands of the 1990s", from BOSAVI. Rainforest Music from Papua New Guinea. A 3 CD Anthology. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. It was recorded by ethnomusicologist Steven Feld)
Subject: Anthropology 33
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2005 1:44:42 PDT
First off, I would like to say that I am extremely impressed by your
two lectures so far. You have a very engaging personality that shrines
through in class. After enrolling in this class, I decided to look you up
on the professor review on Bruinwalk.com. I noticed several disparaging
remarks were made about your previous classes. From a
descriptive/inductive perspective, one could conclude from these comments
that your classes are not worth taking. I however have learned that when
students post comments that are unfairly critical of professors on
Bruinwalk, these children are simply looking for an easy "A".
After perusing these reviews on Bruinwalk, I knew that I was going to
be challenged this quarter. When you mentioned during the first class
that students who complete a class unchanged probably don't learn
anything, I related strongly to that comment. I always expect to have my
beliefs, intellect, and analytical capabilities altered by a class. I
expect nothing less from Anthro 33.
Sitting in the back of Tuesday's class was something that I did
spontaneously. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I feared that a detailed
differentiation between those who sit in the front and those who sit in
the back would occur. I realized this from comments that you made during
the first class. Naturally, one would assume that those who like to
sleep, talk, or do something else sit in the back of class. I have
pondered this assessment over the last 36 hours and I must say that it's
not entirely accurate. For one, I generally am passionate about ALL of my
classes, yet I like to move around the classroom during the quarter to
achieve different perspectives. Secondly, if one can see and hear the
professor in the back of a room AND genuinely cares about learning, does
it matter where they sit? I wanted to say in class that my impression of
those who sit in the front of class is that they generally tend to think
that they are the best students, yet are sometimes perceived by their
peers as "ass-kissers." I refrained from making this comment because I
didn't want to create a hostile divide in a room of 250 students.
Nevertheless, this front/middle/back divide got me thinking about why
people sit where they sit.
I will come and visit you during your office hours during the quarter
when possible. I would have come by on Tuesday but I noticed that you
were walking with a student to your office. Currently, I'm really busy
preparing to attend law school in the fall, so I've got many loose ends
to tie on campus. When my life slows down, I will come by your office.
I'm white, tall and skinny, with bad teeth. Anyhow, thank you for your
e-mails and lectures. They demonstrate to me that you truly care about
our classroom experience.
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2003 23:37:46 EST
I am writing to confess to you a misdeed that I, and perhaps many
first years like myself, have committed. Every Tuesday and Thursday
I have attended your lectures, sitting in Fowler, secretly enjoying
the information and the unique humor in which it was presented, but
ultimately succumbing to peer pressure and mirroring my friends'
outward apathy. And every Thursday after class, I have worked myself
try to gain the courage to attend your office hours. But alas, every
Thursday I have also failed to do so. But as the quarter has ended,
I may not have another chance to show my appreciation for your class
while the subject matter is still
[somewhat] fresh in my mind. So if you have the time, I'd like to
share with you a topic with anthropological implications (lest I
have merely stretched it to be as such in my mind) that I find
interesting and may have discussed with you in person had I mustered
up the courage to do so.
As college students, many of us whom are technologically
inclined (read: euphemism for those addicted to the internet) spend
a large quantity of free time and that which should be spent studying
chatting on instant messenger clients and reading others' online journals,
or blogs. I believe the uses of both of these online communication
tools have aspects that correlate to the themes of your course, and
perhaps may indicate a current evolution in the nature of human communication,
particularly in internet culture, as the intimacy of personal communication
has gained the potential to become widespread using these tools.
I find online journals interesting concerning their relationship
with storytelling and verbal art. Although these are
journals and are meant to contain personal information, many times
it seems as though there is a stigma attached, and as signing up
one often entails an implied contract to voyeurism, much that is
posted has to be censored. This presence of an audience, and their
ability to forage through ones personal thoughts, I believe, implies
its classification as verbal art and/or storytelling, where aspects
of both may alter the author's position in both the internet
community and among those he/she knows in reality. Depending on the
subject matter and the author's status in either community,
one may feel obligated to a responsibility for entertaining the
audience and/or open to criticism. Ultimately, however, the
situation is probably far more complex than I have the capacity to
explore at the time being.
Again, I thank you for your time. Your
class has helped me place
terms and theories to concepts I have been pondering for quite some
time (i.e. your example regarding the need to excuse oneself when
entering another person's personal
cultural expectation to lie when asked, How are you?;
have immensely enjoyed your class and hopefully haven't
too much with my rambling!
Date: Fri, 07 Nov 2003 3:10:11 PDT
Hi Professor Duranti,
My name is [. . .], I'm a student in your Anthro 33 class, and we
met a few weeks back when I came by your office hours and you bought
me a drink at the coffee house...(hopefully that's enough info to place
me). In any case, I just wanted to take some time and tell you how
pleased I am at the way taking your class has altered my perspective
on interracial dynamics and other cultures.
When I met my roommate earlier this year, I was slightly disappointed
at how shy and introverted she seemed and I was discouraged when most
of my attempts at conversation were met with one or two word answers.
Like the African American customers in the study we examined, I was
looking for a dynamic, personal interaction and feeling rejected when
it was not provided. I did not think any further into this situation
other than to assume that she was just a quiet and uncommunicative
person, or that she did not like something about me. However, after
reading the Bailey article, I began to question my assumption that
her shyness was part of her character and began wondering if it was
part of her culture (but I guess the two are closely connected, aren't
they?). My roommate is Chinese, not Korean, but the point is that I
realized there might be an alternate explanation to her behavior than
what I had previously assumed. And, in fact, the longer we live together
the more open the lines of communication become. It was interesting
to be able to apply the reading to my immediate life situation.
Recently I was invited to attend a rather traditional Chinese family-style
dinner with a friend of mine and many of her friends and family, all
of whom, except me, are Chinese. Being the only one who can't use chopsticks
to save my life, I felt like somewhat of an outsider. But the interesting
part is that throughout the meal, I found myself taking note of different
habits, customs, and "rules" that seemed to be present in
the traditional Chinese dinner. For example, I noticed that everyone
drank tea with dinner, and if someone wanted to refill his or her own
cup, that person would first refill the cups of everyone within reach
before serving him or herself. Also, everyone kept their napkin ON
the table as opposed to the American custom of putting a napkin in
one's lap while eating. I know these are small details that are just
based on pure assumptions from a one-time observation, but I was still
struck by the fact that my entire thought process and the way I look
at human interaction really has been affected by what I've learned
in class so far.
You said at the beginning of the year that one of your goals for the
class was to change the way we look at the world and get us to think
about things "anthropologically", so I just thought it might
be nice to relate at least one success story! See you in class on Thursday.
Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 13:50:57 -0800
Thank you for the stimulating lecture that we had today. You always
seem to be able to keep my attention, which is most definitely a rare
quality for professors, it seems. I wonder though, do you think
that I, as a 1st year student, and others like me, have a disadvantage
in a class like Anthro 33, which seems to be largely populated by upperclassmen?
Do you try to think of all of your students as equals, whether it be
their first class in anthropology or their first college class ever?
Do the TA's think the same way? I hope so, because I have a constant
fear of inadequacy that my papers will be less advanced, due to the
fact that I'm so inexperienced in college expectations.
I thought of an interesting parallel today in class between the brotherly
relationship in the Family Dinner Video and what we learned in lecture
about children growing up in a Samoan village. I remember that the
point was made that in Samoan villages the older siblings have the
responsibility of bringing up the children, rather than the parents.
I always thought that this was an interesting contrast to the way that
I grew up, being raised almost solely by my parents (although I had
an older sister). I thought that this was the norm. In the video that
was screened today I was interested in the fact that the older brother
really was the quintessential "big brother," helping the "Junior" in
many ways (e.g. washing him for dinner, cutting his meat). This seems
to closely relate to the Samoan ways of thinking (though the child
in the video was older, and there was obviously more communication
on the parentsí part). The brother in the video was almost fatherly
and that intrigued me. I wonder if that was used to exemplify the "Leave
it to Beaver," 1950's pleasantness that the video tried to get
across to the viewer, or if that is also an actuality in contemporary
society that perhaps I missed by not growing up with an older brother.
older sister performing the same duties could be awkward, especially
since mine is only 3 years older than I am (the large age gap seemed
to be a obvious reason for the brotherly advice in the video). Furthermore,
I now have an 8-year-old brother, and guiltily wonder if I was in the
same position when I lived at home and neglected my "duties."
Well, I suppose that I turned out all right on my own, so even a little
brotherly support now and again from me to him couldn't have done him
any bad. Or maybe I was subconsciously a role model for him. [Probably
Aside from that I just wanted to thank you again for having such a
warm and inviting classroom atmosphere. I'm always propelled to attend
class and haven't missed one to date. And a word of advice, be yourself
and keep showing these funny and engaging videos like you have for
the past couple of lectures and I'm sure that the empty seats of today’s
lecture will gradually fill up.
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 21:31:13 -0800
Hello there. I'm in your Anthro 33 class and was
very interested in today's discussion.
I thought it was very interesting
when we were discussing the concept of Time-Outs -- how an audience
stays in their role (being silent and attentive) even during pauses
(like Kenny Burrell plugging in his guitar) that can't be seen as part
of the performance but is also not an excuse either for the audience
to interact with each other (as they would before the performance begins).
think it's interesting to note how uncomfortable the audience gets
the longer these pauses last, and how confusion starts to come up about
whether or not to stay attentive or to divert attention away from whatever
is happening on the stage (as in the case of technical difficulties).
found all this especially ironic since it occurred in the class itself
today when you were having trouble clearing the zeros from the video
screen. At first, people were patiently waiting and remaining attentive
to you as the professor. The longer the pause, the more noise and rustling
and talking started to occur. Even more time passed, and people by
then were talking at a normal level (to each other) and even leaving
the lecture, despite the fact that the lecture hadn't ended yet. The
longer the pause continued, the more confusion there was and more unrest
and disturbance, and then all the rules and roles seemed to break down,
except for those of us that were still patiently waiting for the technical
issue to be resolved so we could enjoy seeing video examples of some
of the role-breaking and rule-breaking that was happening right in
front of us. I know the technical issues were quite accidental, but
sort of providential in terms of what we were discussing today.
I just thought I'd point out the irony in that and let you know how
much I enjoyed the lecture.
I am thinking of attending the CLIC talk
on Friday since the description sounds intriguing and seems relevant
to some of the issues we've been discussing in class. I assume those
talks are open to anyone who wants to attend?
Date: Tue, 22 January, 2002
after today's lecture i can't help but be a little
worried about you. you seemed a bit sad, to go at that pace, maybe
you do get really
excited about the class and that is why you keep going and going,
but that is what kept the class so thrilling, your upbeat personality
and jokes. You didn't even crack ONE joke. But don't worry i won't
be one of those students that you metioned will start to now complain
that you are going too slow. Also, did you not hand out a sheet
for us to fill in because you went slower and gave us enough time to
write it all ourselves? Either way is fine, i was just curious.
i will be going with a friend of mine in class to Kerchoff coffee
house to watch the jazz performance. We are a little confused still
as to what we are supposed to do...i understand that we will need
to rely on our ignorance to learn as much as we can about our surroundings
and the event, but i am confused as to what we are supposed to
write about...do you want a summary!
of our observations? or for us to try and become experts in two
hours and write a nobel proze winning paper on the jazz performance?
or are we able to take
any stance we want in the paper and try to determine what certain things
meant throughout the performance, and try to figure out tyoes of
any two people or groups, for example the performers and the audience, or
one intrument player and another's communication thru music? or
even better is
this assignment open to our own interpretation and ideas? can we write about
anything we want related to what we saw???\
Date: Sunday 20 January, 2002
hello Professor Duranti,
I e-mailed you before class started to tell
you I was excited to be start your class, and i just wanted to tell
you that you have surpassed my expectations.
Not once have i felt the need to SLEEP in your class, even if i haven't
had much sleep the night before. It is obvious that you are passionate
what you teach and it comes across in the lectures.
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 16:36:10 -0800 Subject: project #2
could you be so kind to explain how do i approach the section in
part 5 (iii) in the assignment. i guess the specfic
question is how do i address the "types of method" and the "forms
of inscription" i was the unfortunate candidate chosen to address
this part of the project. your explanation would be so appreciated.
and by the way i went over all my notes and handout and SURPRISE!!
i think i am begining to make some sense about this rather unique class.
Oct. 15, 1998
I just wanted to thank you for actually assigning reading that I was
interested in. Morgan's article was not only engrossing but extremely
enlightening. I have found it rare in my education so far to really
care. not [now?] I am finding I do.
I absolutely love the handouts that contain the outlines for the lecture!
It makes the lecture more comprehendable, and I don't have to stress
about writing down everything on the slide show.
re: the lecture [which was about fieldwork]
I don't think researchers can be participant observers w/out tainting
the subject they study. With an ethnographer present, I don't think
the community studied could act as naturally and freely as they usually
would w/out the ehnographer. If they care about impressions, families
would be at their best behaviors as to not embarass or bring shame
to their family name. Also, by being a part[icipant] obs[erver] I think
one loses most, if not all, objectivity.
sooo cold in here. All I can think about is how miserable I AM.
[10/15]. [no date, no name]
I like it more [when] you give us (handouts) because it allows me
to focus my attention on what you're saying [...] The different comments
that others make [in the comments that you read] are also pretty funny
... kind of enlightens me.
10/15 [no name]
Despite how lazy I am, class was boring today because everything you
said was already written down. There was nothing for me to do.
[10/15/98] [no date], C. K.
I LIKE HANDOUTS.
I enjoy the handouts because they allow me to focus on additional
points in your lecture. However at the same time it does require a
lot more focus to listen if you are not taking notes on the lecture.
Perhaps there is a middle ground like an outline with room for notes.
But overall I think it is a good idea.
15 OCT 98, B.H. [signed], major: WAC
WAS LONG AND THE MOST INTERESTING PARTS WERE THE DIVERENCES (IS THAT
A WORD?) FROM THE HANDOUTS. YOUR STORIES/INTERPRETATIONS MAKE
THE POINTS ON THE HANDOUTS CLEARER. THE VIDEO MADE ME WANT TO BECOME
AN ANTHROPOLOGIST SO I CAN TRAVEL THE EARTH & MEET ALL HER CHILDREN.
10/15/98 A.C. [initials]
MY SOLE PURPOSE
FOR COMING TO THIS CLASS HAS BECOME HAVING MY COMMENTS READ DURING
LECTURE! I'VE BECOME SO OBSESSED WITH THIS GOAL THAT I'LL
ACTUALLY SIT THROUGH THE ENTIRE CLASS ATTENTIVELY LISTENING AND OVER-WORKING
MY BRAIN SO THAT I CAN COME UP WITH THE MOST BRILLIANT, INTERESTING, & INSIGHTFUL
FEEDBACK OR ANALYSIS TO SUBMIT AS MY COMMENTS. THANK YOU, PROFESSOR,
FOR MAKING ME PAY ATTENTION!
I'M HAVING TROUBLE CONNECTING THE LECTURE MATERIAL TO THE READING
ASSIGNMENTS. THEY SEEMRELATED BUT FAR FROM BEING DIRECTLY COMPLIMENTARY.
MAYBE IT'S JUST ME... I FEEL LIKE I'M JUMPING EVERYWHERE.
[drawing of something, maybe a bug, jumping everywhere]
*Definitely (please) continue to make outlines of the lecture they
help a lot in following your lectures.
-- you have cute humor!
- I like how you made your music lower today.
10/15/98 [no name]
What exactly do you mean by an indicator of slave mentality as a perspective
By the way I lvoe your teaching style.
I don't understand what was your step-son doing in the Samoan village
with you while you were doing research? shouldn't he have been going
to school (In America)?
Also, I noticed
that some of the sentences of the Black English Vernacular on the
hand-out contain very negative content (eg. "damn place" or "ciggarrettes")
and I was wondering if that was necessary.
10/15/98 T.S.H. [full name]
book, I began to relate my own life & the way
I speak. I'm originally from Iran, but born & raised in LA. I'm
not able to speak Frasi that well, although my English is fluent. In
my everyday life, I speak mainly english, but I tend to use Farsi bit
by bit. With one word of Farsi in a sentence of English.
10/15/98 [no name]
Professor Duranti, I don't like the handout system. I feel like I
learn more by writing down info myself. It is easy to lose handouts,
Whereas a journal of notes stays together. [...]
Oct. 13/98 S.Y. [full name]
I noticed that people around me were looking at the Yanomami as totally
wierd. But Believe it or not, I don't see the Yanomami as very different
from us or any other people in the world. I can certainly immagine
living that lifestyle if I was born in that environment and had spent
my whole life there as well.
10/13 L.R. [full name]
Wow! That was some scary stuff. I was wondering what would happened
if they used the sharp side of the ax. If someone died, would it be
a full scale war or what? [...]
n.d. [no name]
It was very disturbing to view this video The fight, of course, was
violent and graphic -- but, to me, what was more disturbing was how
the children were participants in the uproar. Women carried their babies
to the fight scene w/out thinking harm could come to the kids [...]
I didn't like the
film at all -- it was impossible to follow what was going on, and
by the end I was coupletely lost about who was fighting
whom. So weird. How does the film related to "interpretation."?
[...] The handout was SOOOO helpful because that way we had a copy
of what you have up there -- we could LISTEN TO you instead of furiously
jotting down your notes and wind up not hearing any of your lecture.
I think this class has way too much reading assignment. I'm not exactly
the speed reader, you know. Anyhow, the film was very interesting and
kind of funny because of that mad, raving woman. It was actually very
10/13/98 N.F. [full name]
I was truly disturbed by the video to the point were I stopped watching
after the first blow... then, I only listened, and still that didn't
10/13 S.S. [full name]
As an observer of this situation -- I can see that group affiliation
is a driving force in this culture. To be a member of one group or
the other plays an important role in how they interact. Wherether they
were a partiicpant or an observer depended on how close their affiliation
was to the main players of the exchange. [...]
10/13 J.B. [full name]
Its very ironic. At first glance you see the naked bodied villagers
and you have to remember that these people, like us, are human beings.
You can relate what goes on regarding the physical fight and political
struggle to our own lives. We have developed different ways of doing
the same thing, but we're much more similar than we might want to think.
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 1997 20:13:34 -0800 (PST)
i have always been a fairly observant individual and with my recent
immersion into the field of anthropology my expertice
as an observer has only increased. it was a joy to see you on the panel
last friday among the jazz experts. i think you held your own and offered
some good insights such as the indexing that takes place from modern
improvs to past pieces and artists. you were also quite funny as usual.
i did notice that you were writing a lot of stuff down, were you doing
your own anthropological work at the same time. one of the other professors
appeared to be doing this also as she wanted hancock's opinion on rap-
which i know she is involved with. anyways, it has been quite enjoyable
to apply and relate the knowledge i've gained in my classes and readings
to my personal world. as i mentioned to you following the midterm i
also attended the jazz festival friday night. during this event i became
quite frustrated as it was sometimes hard to enjoy the music because
i was analyzing everything- from the politics on stage to the personal
interactions between me and my neighbor to whom i had to share the
arm rest with. sometimes analyzations are fascinating but other times
it hard to take things for what they're worth. i remember looking at
sunsets quite differently after taking astronomy. it can be really
neat to know how the world works and to gain a good understanding of
people but sometimes i would rather enjoy the moment- i find this harder
and harder to do as i become better educated. this weekend i watched
t.v. for the first time in awhile and it was so relaxing- my brain
didn't have to do any work, this sounds sad but do you understand what
i'm saying? are you always analyzing the world around you and trying
to apply things to your theories? if so, is this a passion which is
incredibly fullfilling or is it annoying? have you found a good medium
for seperating your work from your play, or is your work your play?
i appreciate your time in reading this. i wanted to cøme talk
to you but i couldn't make your office hours this week and felt i should
express myself while the feelings are still fresh. thank you and have
a good night.
To: [Signed] From: Sandro Duranti
Dear [ . . . ], thanks
for your supportive and enlightening message. It was fun for me to
be there on Friday with some great jazz musicians.
I was quite worried before we started but once we got going, I had
a great time. It was good for me to see some of you in the audience;
it gave some more continuity to the performance, and I needed it. As
for the "becoming-an-expert-of-interaction" type of syndrome,
don't worry about it. It will go away (in part). I mean, you will end
up using it when you want to use it or when things go wrong. This is
the first stage, the becoming literate in it. I had that experience
when I started to work in film. I would go to the movies and see all
the wrong zooms, the lighting, the actors screwing up. I could separate
image from sound. It was terrible. Now I don't do it much. Only occasionally.
But if the movie is good I am just there laughing or crying like everyone
else. Thanks again for the message. It was a treat. Best,
Date: Mon, 03 Mar
1997 15:44:01 -0800
Hi Professor Duranti, I've been thinking about today's lecture [about
multilingualism and mutliculturalism] for a long time now, and I have
many mixed feelings. I am Indian, but do not speak Punjabi (my parents'
language), and have difficulty in understanding it. For years now I've
been wanting to learn the language, but have not yet had enough discipline
to teach myself. I don't want to blame my parents, but I always seem
to be doing so. It is a whole realm of my culture that I am not part
of, cannot participate in, and do not enjoy. Nevertheless, I have never
before thought that maybe because I can't speak the language, I am
not truly Indian. The thought really hurts. Your tone throughout lecture,
along with Jill's, was somewhat melancholy in considering that the
Samoans and Judeo-Spanish speaking people are perhaps losing their
culture--their identity--in losing their language. I feel guilty. Each
time you mention that you made the decision of teaching your son Itallian,
I feel a bit jealous that my parents did not make the decision of teaching
me Punjabi. It's not easy in the Indian society, either. I guess I
should try to discipline myself, but now it seems late--much of the
culture behind learning the language naturally will not be there. These
are just some of my reactions, so you know your students are affected
by what you teach. Thank-you for bringing out these emotions.
[Signed] From: Sandro Duranti
Dear Nimmi, I am
quite aware that this topic [i.e. multilingualism] brings out all
kinds of feelings in people and I can't control them
because I am just a small dot in the trajectory of human lives, yours
included. But it is important to talk about these issues and therefore
I am very happy that you decided to write to me. This is the only way
to improve our understanding of these phenomena. My main point yesterday
was however that you might think that you don't speak another language,
but in fact you might be multicultural or even multilingual, the question
is: to what extent and in which contexts you are in two worlds. But
by no means I meant to blame anyone about choosing NOT to speak their
native language to their children. There are reasons for that. Some
are conscious decisions and other ones are unconscious. Parents' decisions
are conditioned and motivated by all kinds of constraints and needs
including the well being of their children and your parents might have
thought, like many immigrants do, that the most important thing for
you to make it in this society was to learn English. I can't argue
with that. People have different histories. Not everyone is an immigrant
in the same way. Until recently, I didn't even think of myself as an
immigrant. I think that the first time I realized that [I am an immigrant]
was when my son came home from school and said that he had to do a
project and interview an immigrant. I found myself saying "you
can interview me!" I go back to Italy every summer and sometimes
twice a year, often for professional reasons as well. When my son was
born I didn't have a regular job in the US and probably was still thinking
that I might have to go back and live in Italy, in which case Italian
meant a great deal to the rest of my family. As for blaming yourself,
that's no good either. If you think that speaking Punjabi is really
important to you, you should use your intelligence and knowledge to
figure out what the best way to accomplish that would be, classes might
not work for you. Perhaps you need to spend some time where people
speak Punjabi. That would be your way. We can talk about this more
at any time. As for the final, you need to remind your TA and make
an appointment with her to take the final early. Take care,
Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 16:59:49 Subject: it's over!
Hello, Professor Duranti. How are you? I must say that after that
lecture when you mentioned my name, Jennifer [my T.A.] never mistakes
my name any more. Thank you! By the way, there were some things that
I have been noticing lately and I really think it's because of this
class. Like one of the E-mails that you read in class the other day,
I keep on analyzing my behavior and it feels very weird. Especially
when I don't get an answer to it, the thought keeps on bugging me.
One of it is the way I take notes in class. I take most of it in English,
but once in a while, Japanese appears in my notes. Is this part of
code-switching? I have noticed that what is easy to analyze appears
in English, and complicated things appears in Japanese, but then, the
parts that I don't understand appears in English again. I don't think
I use each language so that it indicates my attitude towards something,
(like the Tewas,) but I kind of wonder what happens in my head when
I understand the words that someone speaks. Do I understand it in English
or do I understand it in Japanese. When you first came to US, did you
take notes in Italian?
Another thing came
up to my mind when I was reading the Baby-talk article [by C. Ferguson,
see syllabus]. The word "MAMA" is
used to express "mother" in Japan, too. Is this a phonetic
thing that is almost universal? (you were saying that the "M" sound
is easy for a child to say) But then, in Japanese, there is another
word for MOM, which is "OKAA-san". I think it's close to
saying "mother", but it is not as formal as "mother".
As a matter of fact, if you keep on saying "MAMA" even when
you are grown up, it gives a really weird impression. Especially boys
shouldn't use "MAMA" and either "OKAA-san" or "OFUKURO" is
preferred. "OFUKURO" is another way of saying "mom",
but it conveys a masculine image. There is also "HAHA" which
is a really formal way of saying it, and it is used in formal settings,
and in a sense, it shows modesty and respect to the person you are
talking to. I was just wondering when I switched from "MAMA" to "OKAA-san".
It's part of socialization, I guess.
Today was the last day of class. I am really glad I took this class
because like I said when I went to see you the other day, it really
reminded me of why I decided to study abroad. I am really disappointed
that the class is over, but I will definitely go to your office again
next quarter. Thank you very much, and I will see you next Friday.
Good luck in making the finals! (but please don't make it too hard..)
By the way, I was retyping my paper last night for assignment #3,
and then the guy next to me suddenly asked me if I was in Anthro33
and it turned out that we were doing the same assignment. He was telling
me that this class inspired him to change his major from linguistics
to anthropology. His name is Chris and he said that he was going to
go see you sometime. Just so that you know that the class was really
powerful and it moved a lot of people...
Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 23:29:24 -0800 Subject: From the Italian marketplace
[...] I must admit
that, during the first two or three weeks, I was lost! I began to
dread coming to class because it just meant that I
would go through the painful struggle of not knowing what to write
in my notes. I couldn't figure out what was important. Your thinking
seemed circular and went against my habit of lecture outlines and bullet
point note taking. Slowly, I realized that your class was not about
the lofty regurgitation of information for me to neatly store in my
note book to be relied upon in a late night cram session. As I became
absorbed in your lectures, I recognized that you were challenging me
to think about the ideas! ("Think" at college?...what a concept!)
After the reading assignments, you actually wanted my thoughts and
reactions to the readings. You had me get together with other students
to exchange ideas, interact, and work together to produce the group
projects. (The people in my group are now my good friends. We all have
plans to see each other after the quarter.) Finally, I remembered that
these were the very qualities about college that I had idealized in
high school. Sadly, they are qualities that I have found to be rare.
These revelations came into full swing during the midterm. I saw that
I was able to answer the questions through my own thoughts and not
as a result of dry memorization of facts and details. Sure, I had to
memorize the authors' names, but that was easy after having participated
in the discussions about each article.
In closing, I was impressed by your comment today about artists and
their descriptions of their own work. You thought that you might offend
artists in the class, but I don't think so. Being a composer, I have
never been able to talk about the music that I create. I just create
Thank you for all of your hard work and for your insight into human
language and interaction.
See you in the future!