Category Archives: Language Programs

Linguistic hierarchy: How language shows respect

Linguistic hierarchy: How language shows respect

By Jennifer Alvarez and Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.

 

Learning a second language is not only about learning vocabulary and sentence structure. It is also about learning culture. In this post, we talk about forms of respect inherent in different languages. While some cultures are more hierarchical in nature, others are less hierarchical, and their languages reflect those differences. We have taken examples from English, French, Spanish, and Japanese to demonstrate these concepts. While reading, consider the words you use in everyday life. Think about how your native language compares and then ask yourself two important questions: 1) how does your native language reflect hierarchy and 2) what does that say about the importance (or lack thereof) of hierarchy in your native culture?

 

2013-07-13 15.54.04Let’s begin with English! English spoken in the Southern region of the United States shows respect when speaking to others in positions of authority or elders by using Sir (for men) or Ma’am (for women). People in the Northern United States tend to use the terms Mr. or Mrs. in front of the person’s last name instead. However, referring to people simply by their first name has become the norm throughout much of the U.S.

 

           Hello (formal): Hello, ma’am or sir/Mr. Smith.

           Hello (informal): Hello.

 

           You’re welcome (formal): You are welcome, ma’am or sir/Mrs. Smith.

           You’re welcome (informal): You’re welcome.

 

           How are you? (formal): How are you, ma’am or sir?

           How are you? (informal): How are you?

 

The French language also distinguishes between formal and informal settings, showing respect for strangers, those in positions of authority, and elders. The “tu” form is used in informal situations, while speakers use “vous” to refer to people in formal settings. Both mean “you,” but “vous” shows a deeper level of respect for your conversational counterpart. Both the subject pronoun and the verb change to reflect this. Below are a few examples of everyday phrases in both a formal and informal setting in French.

 

          IMG_2184Please (formal): S’il vous plait.

Please (informal): S’il te plait.

 

What is your name? (formal): Comment vous appelez-vous?

What is your name? (informal): Comment t’appelles tu?

 

How are you? (formal): Comment allez-vous?

How are you? (informal): Ça va?

 

A fellow Latin-based romance language, Spanish, like French, differentiates between a formal “you” and an informal “you.” When in an informal setting, such as with friends or family, use the “tu” form. When speaking to strangers, someone in a higher position such as a manager, as well as older adults, use “usted.”  Again, note that the verb ending is also different to reflect the change in subject use. Some everyday phrases that are used in the Spanish language are listed below to show both formal and informal usage.

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How are you? (formal):  ¿Cómo está usted?

How are you? (informal): ¿Cómo tú estás?

 

What is your name? (formal):  ¿Cómo se llama usted? OR ¿Cuál es su nombre?

What is your name? (informal): ¿Cómo te llamas? OR ¿Cuál es tu nombre?

 

Where are you from? (formal):  ¿De dónde es usted?

Where are you from? (informal): ¿De dónde tú eres?

 

Japanese has two types of “respect languages.” The context of the situation and the identity of the person to whom you are speaking are the criteria used to determine which type of language is spoken. The two types of “respect languages” are: “sonkeigo,” which translates to respectful language, and “kensongo,” which is the use of modest or humble language. Following are a few examples.

 

Sonkeigo, the respectful language, is used when talking about superiors and customers.  This type of language is never used to refer to one’s self. This language is only used when referring to someone else. It is necessary to use different verb conjugations when using this type of respect language. To show respect to an elder, for example, one may change the word “suru,” meaning “do,” to “hasaru.” Altering the verb in this way shows deference or respect despite the fact that the two words have the same meaning.

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Kensongo, the modest or humble language, is used to describe one’s actions or the actions of someone in a group such as customers in a business. Kensongo is used to describe situations in which someone is speaking of an action that took place while assisting another. For example, the word carry, which is “motsu,” is changed to “mochi shimasu” because the term is being used to retell a story in which that person helped someone carry something.

 

“I had to motsu the books.” This is adequate because someone is talking about a personal action they did for themselves. Alternately, that sentence would read, “I had to mochi shimasu the books for the customer today” if the person did the action for someone else.

 

Understanding how language shows respect for authority is important for everyday conversations, but is also extremely important for business transactions. Whether or not you make an attempt to speak the other language in negotiations, make sure that you are aware of hierarchical protocol prior to engaging the other party. Showing such deference will go a long way.

 

For more language learning tips to help you through your cultural adaptation process, contact Global Perceptions, your relocation specialist in Puerto Rico.

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Developing a Personal Language Learning Plan

Developing a personal language learning plan

By: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.

 

You have rung in the New Year and written your list of resolutions. Like many others, your list includes lose weight, exercise more, and learn a new language. After a week into the New Year, we ask, how are you doing with that list? How have your daily practices changed? Are you still committed to those resolutions?

 

If you are still doing them, terrific! Stick with it! If not, we want to help. People often decide that they are going to make sweeping changes in their lives, but do not really contemplate all that goes into making those changes happen. Ask yourself when, why, where, and how to get on the right path. When do I have the time to exercise? Why do I want to make this change? How do I find the support that I need to stay committed?

Change Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.

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As language learning specialists, we want to help you develop a plan that will help you achieve your language learning goals this year. We believe that there are five main obstacles to learning a new language (or making other significant changes in your life). Those obstacles include: time, energy, money, commitment, and support. Though many people will use these obstacles as excuses not to do something, we believe they are the resources that make all the difference. Consider this…we all have time for the things we enjoy doing. They are important to us so we find time. Our jobs, kids and other activities drain energy from us, but yet we find more energy to forge ahead. We are a little short on cash this week, but if it is important to us, we always find a way to get the funds. We simply need to be committed. If the commitment is not there, we will never follow through. However, if we clear our minds and stay focused on the goal, nothing will deter us.

 

Learning a new language requires the same mindset. It requires changing the way we think about those so-called obstacles. By turning the challenges into small hurdles to jump rather than mountains to climb, we alter our brain chemistry and turn them into possibilities instead of limitations. That alone opens up our mind to thinking in a new way—something that is critical for learning a new language.

www.aischool.org

www.aischool.org

To learn a new language, we recommend establishing a learning plan. Start by determining how much time you can realistically set aside for learning. The key word there is ‘realistic.’ If you only have 10 minutes per day, then set that as your goal. Next, decide what time of day you can consistently set aside those 10 minutes. Set an alarm to remind yourself and actually use that 10 minutes to study. Now you cannot say you do not have the time.

 

Find yourself a proper study space. Make sure you have enough light and are comfortable in the space. Bring your materials (pens, notebooks, dictionaries, etc.) so you do not have to get up from the space during those 10 minutes. Those 10 minutes are for you to study. Do not let yourself be distracted by other things. Maintain your focus. Now you have the materials and location. They are no longer obstacles.

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There are many language programs out there that report incredible results, but many come with an incredible price tag. If your bank account is not very deep, start with some of the free apps like Duolingo or 50languages.com. Start to learn the basics with these programs before investing large sums in programs that often end up on your shelves or hard drives, never to be opened. See, money was just a small hurdle to jump.

 

Select a method that works for you. If you are an auditory learner, use CDs, podcasts, and other online programs where you can listen and repeat. If visual learning is more your style, write the words in your notebook. Highlight important things with bright colors. Use flashcards to repeatedly see the words. If you prefer to move around while studying, make sure you have some space. Act out the words. Stretch, strike a pose, dance, or get on your elliptical machine. Now you know how to make this happen.

 

Whichever method you choose, stick with it. Remember, learning a language does not happen overnight. You have to be committed for the change the take place. For many people maintaining that commitment is the biggest challenge. One of the best ways to stay committed is by having a support network to help. Get a language coach or tutor who can help you along the way. Family members may know the language and be willing to help, but our experience has been that students often prefer to learn from someone outside the immediate family. In that space students can make mistakes and learn from them without the embarrassment of being laughed at in front of their family.

www.1stopwellness.net

www.1stopwellness.net

With a dedicated time and study space, money in your pocket, a method that works for you, and a support network around you, you can do this! You can learn a new language! Make 2015 the year that you follow through on your resolutions by taking these steps. We will be here to help you along the way!

 

For more insight into learning foreign languages, please contact Global Perceptions. We are relocation and language specialists who want to help you and your family transition smoothly from life in one culture to another. Contact us TODAY! 

 

 

 

Speeches that make a difference

With all the technology at our hands, we have come to rely on the immediacy of texts and social media posts to make our messages heard. However, when we use those mediums we lose some of the tone, rate, visual cues, and other nonverbal gestures that make a speech something for the ages. These 11 speeches from the last two centuries changed the world. How do you think they would have been different had they been posted on social media in 140-character snippets?

Take one of our public speaking workshops today!

Take one of our public speaking workshops today!

Want to practice your public speaking skills? Our trained professionals can help you learn to effectively communicate in board meetings, on conference calls, and in daily life. We train you to overcome fear while increasing vocabulary and improving grammar skills. Make 2015 the year that you say good-bye to fear! Contact Global Perceptions TODAY!

Learning to Love What Your Language Can’t Give You (and What it Can)

Guest post by: Laurie Melin

 

Today I spent five hours in a doctor’s office waiting room. During those five hours, my ears worked on overdrive. I overheard people talking about their illnesses, I listened in when the secretary explained the billing process, I tried to catch patient names called over the loudspeaker, I blocked out the music coming from the headphones of the doctor-waiting-roomguy sitting next to me, and I watched the news drone on and on from a TV in the corner. Once my name was finally called, I talked to a nurse about my symptoms and met with a doctor, who advised me about the prescriptions he was writing for me.

It was a pretty normal doctor’s office experience with one major exception: everything took place in Spanish, my second language. If I paid close attention, I could understand most things said around me and to me, although I had to ask people to repeat themselves more than once. But gone are the days of easily eavesdropping, casually picking up music lyrics, or watching the news while multitasking. In my second language, listening to the spoken word is work. It is usually tiring, and sometimes it is discouraging.

Despite the frustration involved in learning Spanish, the process has taught me to appreciate the ease with which I use English. When I write or speak in English, I am not usually aware of the thought process behind my words. Speaking is as natural as walking. When I write, speak, or listen to Spanish, I pay a lot more attention to the nuances nestled within the language.

 

Lost in Translation

I teach ESL, and my students often want to translate their thoughts directly from Spanish to English (think of the literal Puerto Rican translation of “I’ll call you back” – “te teacherllamo pa’trás”). Not everything translates that way, though. Sometimes Spanish and English align nicely, but often the students have to learn a new way of saying something rather than translating sentences word for word.

That is a good thing! Together, we learn more about the richness and variety offered by languages other than our own. The words, phrases, and syntax that cultures use to express themselves provide a window into the complexity behind spoken thought. When I have to learn how other people say things, I discover a new way to express myself. Sometimes I like the new way better than any way I have known before.

 

 

Words and Idioms

For example, at the language institute where I work, my Puerto Rican colleagues often refer to the students’ style of speaking as “pausado.” There are English words that I can use to describe the same idea – slow, halting, jerky, filled with pauses – but I find pausado to be a better descriptor than any English word I know. Lists online compile words like this from a variety of languages that describe feelings and experiences that English can’t quite capture in one word.

In every language, we blend our words into sayings and idioms that are often fun and always nuanced. Idioms take time to learn in a new language, and behind them often lies real history. Lately, my Dominican students have taught me that “the devil gives you devilnieces and nephews,” and Colombian students have taught me that “love plus distance leads to two happy couples.” English sayings do not offer exactly the same meaning: think of “out of sight, out of mind” – it does not have the same offhanded humor as “amor de lejos, felices los cuatro.”

 

Music and Literature

Music and literature blend words in a beauty that usually cannot be equaled in translation. After moving to Puerto Rico, I tried to help a friend translate the lyrics of a song she wrote, but I found that I could not capture the poignancy and perfection of her Spanish phrases within the same time signature in English. Growing up, I remember noticing that Shakira’s songs in English were not direct translations of the Spanish lyrics, and I wondered why. It is hard to grasp the undertones and intricacy of a meaningful thought when translating it.

In literature, translations also lose the tone of the stories’ speakers, especially the accents and sayings that illustrate characters’ personalities and backgrounds. Many of my Spanish-speaking friends prefer to read English-language novels in the original language rather than read the translation into Spanish.

Now when I use English, I am grateful for the effortlessness involved in manipulating my words and sharing my thoughts. As I continue learning Spanish, though, I love the way new vocabulary and idioms add to my understanding of other people’s experiences and cultural history. I am more aware of both the fun and the challenge that are part of using any language – or combining languages – to express myself.

 

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For further information on language learning in Puerto Rico, visit http://global-perceptions.com/. Global Perceptions, your relocation specialist in Puerto Rico, works closely with you, your family, and your company to assure that your relocation goes as smoothly as possible.

Get over your fear of English TODAY!

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Are you a professional who fears speaking English? Does your fear keep you from climbing the corporate ladder? Does it keep you from getting to know the people who could help you advance? Does your lack of confidence keep you from speaking up in meetings? Do you avoid making presentations because of it?

Many others feel the same way.You are not alone! There are lots of people like you!

This week alone, I have spoken with two new clients who suffered from this same fear. One commented that she had given up an incredible job opportunity in the States because she did not think she could handle the English requirements. The other is a qualified professional who lost her job and needs better English to get a decent job for someone with her expertise.

Both of these women told me about how they understand English well, but get stuck when they have to speak. They freeze and the words escape them.

This is common! I hear it all the time! I repeat, you are not alone!

So how you do you get rid of this fear? Here are five steps to get you started:

1)  Quit saying that you don’t speak good English. You’re English is infinitely better than most Believe in your abilities!Americans’ (Spanish, Mandarin, etc.). Stop selling your abilities short! You have a wider vocabulary than you think. Don’t worry if your pronunciation is not perfect. You can still get by much better than most Americans in your country.

2)  Make use of opportunities to practice. No matter if it’s in person or online, talk with other English speakers every chance you get. Go to workshops or seminars in English. Visit coffee shops where English speakers gather. Start up a conversation with someone in line at the post office. Put yourself in positions where you will have opportunities to improve.

IMG_09823)  Take classes. Online programs have come a long way over the years, but I still argue that face-to-face interaction is the best way to learn a language. If you can pay for a private tutor, even better. That way your teacher can focus on you. Your pronunciation doubts can be corrected. Your insecurities can be addressed. And, you can gain the insight of a native speaker who knows the culture.

4)  Keep a positive attitude! Tell yourself that YOU CAN DO THIS! Yes, you really can! No matter your age, income, or social status, you can learn to speak another language if you think you can. Focus on the positive! The more you tell yourself that you can, the quicker your skills will develop.

5)  Just do it! Forget about grammar rules and split infinitives. Don’t worry about your pronunciation. Just do it! What are you waiting for? START TODAY!

Don’t wait any longer! Begin celebrating the break-throughs and small accomplishments that you make on a daily basis. They will build into something bigger and more powerful—an IMPROVED YOU because you made the decision to leave fear aside and move forward. YOU decided to learn English and did it!

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To learn more about our custom-designed classes to help you get over this fear, contact Global Perceptions TODAY! Don’t put this off any longer! We have helped many others and can help YOU achieve your goals too! Call 787.455.7764 or email clasesdeingles@globalperceptions.net for your FREE consultation!

 

 

 

 

Top Five Tips for Learning Spanish in Puerto Rico

To make the most of your stay in Puerto Rico it is important that you make an effort to speak basic Spanish. To accomplish this, you can invest in any of the audio programs available or take classes designed to teach Spanish in a short time period. Many people learn basic terms and phrases this way, aiding their initial transition.

However, if you want to interact competently among Puerto Ricans, learning to speak Spanish like the locals is imperative. Those who already speak some Spanish upon arrival will likely discover that they are not understood and they don’t understand what others are saying either. Puerto Rican Spanish is not like other Spanish. That’s not a bad thing. It just means that you’ll have to work harder to communicate. But how do you learn to speak like the locals?

  1. Make the commitment: If you are going to learn anything in life, you have to make a commitment to learning it. Learning a language is no different. Consider how you learn best and go with that. If you are a visual learner, use flash cards. If you’re an auditory learner, get CDs that you can play in the car or download podcasts. If you’re a kinesthetic learner, try doing something active that allows you to immediately apply concepts.
  2. Get involved: Take classes, go to the gym, find a congregation, learn to salsa dance, or find another more suitable activity. Whatever your personal interest, feed it while getting involved in the local community. You can learn body parts during yoga class and watch what others do. Listening to the lead chef of a cooking class repeat words for stir, mix, or bake will amplify your vocabulary. Observe what’s going on around you. You’ll be amazed at how much you pick up after the first few weeks by getting involved.
  3. Make friends with the locals: Don’t be shy. Get to know your neighbors and others around you. They are a great source of information and you can practice your Spanish with them. Locals can keep you informed of upcoming events, tell you what’s new around town, and help you avoid unsafe places. It’s fine to make friends with non-locals as well, but try to balance between the two so that you get perspectives from both sides.
  4. Tour the island: Get out and see the island. Puerto Rico is a beautiful island with some priceless treasures. You can go surfing, play golf, ride a horse, and see ancient ruins all in the same day. The further away from San Juan you go, the less people speak English so this makes for a great way to practice and learn new words. Don’t stay holed up in your house. Go out and explore beyond the shore!
  5. Party: Yes, PARTY! Participating in the many festivities that take place year round is a terrific way to observe cultural customs and learn words for local foods and beverages. If you get invited, be sure to go. You may feel overwhelmed, but go anyway. Look for small opportunities to add to the conversation or simply listen to others and attempt to pick up a few words. It’s not easy, especially when music and seven simultaneous conversations drown out your immediate conversation, but keep at it. You’ll get the hang of it and have fun at the same time.

Overall, don’t give up! Learning Spanish will get easier. Take advantage of all possible opportunities to put yourself out there. You’ll be amazed at what you learn! Mistakes will be made, laughs will be had, but you’ll learn much more than vocabulary along the way. This is key to having the best possible experience you can on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.

Don’t forget that we are offering FREE CONSULTATIONS for Spanish lessons for both adults and children until September 15, 2012. Contact Global Perceptions TODAY for an appointment! Visit www.globalperceptions.net or call 787.455.7764.

 

Is Spanish Necessary in Puerto Rico?

Depending on who you ask, posing this question can land you smack in the middle of a highly contested political debate. Is English enough? Should English be spoken at all? Should Spanish be the official language of Puerto Rico? Each of these questions can be answered in different ways. With that in mind, the ensuing post should not be construed as a political statement. Rather, this post is representative of the personal and professional experiences of Global Perceptions’ President since moving to the island in 2006.

The simple answer to whether or not Spanish is necessary is “Yes!” The complicated answer is that the extent of Spanish necessary depends on where you live, what you do on a daily basis, your sense of adventure and interest in local culture. Many foreigners decide to live near other non-natives, forming an English-speaking enclave in which they can function. These English bubbles offer support and advice for newcomers and provide a sense of home away from home. Being a part of one of these groups is critical for most newcomers.

As helpful as these enclaves can be for establishing connections, they should not be the only connections that you make. Living in these spaces may be ideal in the beginning; however, you should work to branch out into the local community as well. This is where Spanish becomes increasingly important. Many people you meet have some English skills, but they much prefer to speak Spanish. To put gas in your car, answer the guards when they call your home with a delivery, make a bank deposit or get a haircut, you need to speak basic Spanish. If you have the time before your arrival to learn Spanish, do so. If not, make it a priority once you arrive. Look for an instructor or program with a positive track record that focuses on local conversation skills. You live in Puerto Rico, not Spain or Mexico. Learning to speak like Spaniards will only help you on your vacation there. It won’t help you much here.

Once you have basic skills learned in a classroom setting, put them into use. Make an effort to use your Spanish even if it’s not very good. Local people will appreciate the effort and will be more apt to help you as well. If you really want to practice, make sure you keep speaking Spanish even if they switch to English. They want to help you, but you can’t learn if you don’t practice so stick with it. If you truly have the desire to learn, you will. If you don’t make learning Spanish a priority, you will never make the leap and will miss out on a lot of the experiences you could have had.

If the idea of learning Spanish seems intimidating, consider private classes with Global Perceptions. We focus on teaching students to interact in the local community and function on a day-to-day basis whether as executives, students, military personnel, athletes, or accompanying partners. Our custom-designed materials are innovative and interactive for all ages.

 

FREE consultations for adult and youth Spanish tutoring sessions are being held until September 15, 2012. Contact us TODAY for your FREE appointment! Call us at 787.455.7764 or visit our webpage at www.globalperceptions.net.

 

It’s all about Relocation, Relocation, Relocation!

 

Relocating internationally is never easy, but the thought of leaving the frozen north for the sandy beaches of the Caribbean may make the process more enjoyable. Imagine yourself resting peacefully in a hammock, sipping a refreshing beverage while the salty ocean breeze passes over you. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

 

 

Unfortunately, everyday life in the Caribbean is not quite that simple. Wherever you come from, relocating to Puerto Rico can cause major culture shock. If you have no real understanding of the culture or history and don’t speak Spanish, it can be even more challenging. But you’re in luck! Following is some advice from a professional relocation company to help you prepare for your relocation journey in Puerto Rico.

1. The relocation process will take much longer than you anticipate in Puerto Rico. Even the most organized person will find that everything moves a little slower here. This is largely due to antiquated policies left in place from Spanish rule and a generally laid-back approach to life. Add on extra time to whatever you plan to do no matter if it’s get the groceries, pick up the kids from school, catch a movie, or pay a bill. And don’t be surprised if you don’t accomplish everything in one day, even if the same activities would have taken you only a couple of hours back home.

2. Be prepared for the traffic and driving techniques. If you come from a place where a traffic jam consists of more than three cars at the one red light in town, it can be a major shock! Driving in Puerto Rico requires one to be creative as well as watchful. Stop signs and red lights are merely suggestions, any lane can be a turn lane, turn signals are rarely used, speed limits are posted but not followed, and the slow people
tend to drive in the left lane. It takes some adjustment, but you can do it!

 

3. School curriculum may also be different from what you or your children are accustomed to. Even at the English-language schools that cater to newly-arrived families, there seems to be much more focus on reading and writing than creative thinking or problem solving. Additionally, daily homework in most classes is a reality and many projects require parental supervision if not participation. This is not necessarily bad, but is something parents should be aware of as they go about selecting schools.

4. Legally Puerto Rico is part of the United States. Culturally, it is far from the same. Do not expect your experience at McDonald’s, Home Depot, or Sears to be like that of any other experience. First, you are likely to find more people shopping on any given day. Second, employees will attend customers in more of a triage fashion than an “I was in the line first,” fashion. Third, the checkout lines are bound to be longer and slower. It doesn’t seem to matter where you go. Plan for such an experience; look at is as part of your cultural initiation and learn from the situation.

For more tips and advice on relocation in Puerto Rico, keep reading our blog! More relocation tips are soon to follow! We share what we know to help you through each step of the relocation process.  Feel free to comment and to share your experiences as well! We look forward to hearing from you!



Don’t forget that we are offering FREE CONSULTATIONS for Spanish lessons for both adults and children until September 15, 2012. Contact Global Perceptions TODAY for an appointment! Visit www.globalperceptions.net or call 787.455.7764. 

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