Re: [xmca] Terms of Endearment

From: bella kotik <bella.kotik who-is-at>
Date: Thu Dec 13 2007 - 08:00:34 PST

How interesting: in Israel, though so different culture we have the same
syndrome. Everybody is called by the first name and nicknames of politicians
are used by mass media. As a new immigrant from a different world (Russia) I
still have some difficulty- I call some of my older (or less
close) Russia-speaking friends using "wy"=usted in Spanish, but my daughter
who was immersed in the Hebrew language and culture at the age 12 uses "TY"
in Russian even to people whom I call "wy".
This things are interiorised in the context and really difficult to teach
just as a part new (foreign/second) of language.
Bella Kotik-Friedgut

On 12/13/07, Ana Paula B. R. Cortez <> wrote:
> Dear David (Professor Kellog? Mr Kellog? Mr David?),
> Although being part of western culture as well, we, Brazilians, suffer
> from what we can call " the extreme intimacy syndrome". We never, ever, call
> anyone by their surname. Have you ever noticed that those football star
> T-shirts display names such as "Ronaldinho", "Kaka", "Romario", "Pelé"? Has
> anyone ever wondered why it is so? Blame the syndrome. What about the
> president of the country? Luis Inácio LULA da Silva? Even the nickname was
> included in his name. Nobody calls him "Mr Silva", but Lula. If I were to
> address to him, I'd never call him "Sir" (sorry, it's part of the local
> culture).
> Now, picture the difficulties I find when I am teaching. I work at two
> different contexts: at university, where (of course!) I should be called
> "Mrs Cortez", but all I get is "Ana" (I don't even bother asking them to
> call me differently); and at a bilingual school, where (supposedly) the
> environment should be English-speaking only. Ok, most of them call me "Mrs
> Cortez" there, but then there are more chances of my being called "Mrs
> Corta", "Cortez", "Mrs" etc... new nicknames!
> As you said, we don't teach "English", but human interaction. If I'm to
> interact with students that are using the language in a context where terms
> of endearment are very intimate, I believe I have to be careful to emphasize
> that it could never happen in an English-speaking country, only in Brazil.
> So, I warn them to use the proper titles when in Canada, USA, UK,
> Australian, wherever abroad.
> However, the other way is a funny thing too: what do foreigners do when in
> Korea? If Koreans are supposed to follow and respect English-speaking
> countries protocol, do English speakers do the same when in Korea? All I can
> tell you is that we have a fun time speaking to foreigners here in Brazil,
> they just can't get too intimate! And feel like fish out of water...
> I'm not following any theory here, it is just my own way of thinking: if
> in Rome, do like the Romans. This is human interaction.
> Now, I don't know how I'm supposed to close the message. What should I
> write? Regards? Best Wishes? Or, something more daring, like Brazilians:
> Xoxo? Whatever!
> Ana Paula
> David Kellogg <> escreveu:
> Dear Mike:
> The problem is that there are cultures (including ours) where it's really
> TOO intimate to address a colleague by their first name. In most families in
> Korea, a younger brother doesn't use the first name of an older brother
> though the older brother may use that of the younger (just as parents may
> use their children's first names but not vice versa in the West). I can
> never get my students to call me anything but "Professor Kellogg" even
> though I am really only a lecturer (and that's why we address everybody
> except Mike as "Professor" in our contribution to the discussion on
> development).
> I gather from Paul's comments that "dear" as a letter salutation is also
> considered too intimate now, which was certainly not true when I left the
> USA more or less permanently in the early 1980s.
> In English teaching we try (very stupidly) to teach terms of address as a
> set of rules, e.g.
> a) WHERE INTIMATE: Never use a FIRST name with a title (except that of
> course here in Korea the last name comes first and the first name comes
> last)
> b) WHERE NOT INTIMATE: Never use a LAST name without a title (ditto).
> This succeeds in utterly confusing our learners and erects huge barriers
> to human interaction where none previously existed. Language is NOT a set of
> rules--not even grammar "rules" are rules, and to to try to teach respect
> and collegiality as a set of rules is almost a contradiction in terms (since
> rules will inevitably involve a clash between MY rules and YOURS and the way
> I end up expressing my respect for you involves NOT respecting your rules).
> So what do I teach? Human interaction, of course. You ask somebody how to
> address them and then you forget your own bloody rules and just do what they
> tell you to do. In fact, a question like "What do I call you?" is EASIER to
> teach than the so-called "rules" above. But most importantly it is clearly
> LIMITING and LIMITED in a way that so-called rules are not. It's concrete
> and personal, one might almost say intimate, as human interactions have to
> be.
> Last night I was reading Paul Bloom's book "How Children Learn the
> Meanings of Words" (MIT: 2001). He has a "rules and words" paradigm for
> language, so he spends some of the latter part of the book smirking at those
> of us who consider rules and words negotiable and not innate.
> He cites the following parody of the Whorfian (and Vygotskyan) position on
> p. 244.
> Whorfian: Eskimos are greatly infuenced by their language in their
> perception of snow. for example, they have N words for snow whereas English
> only has none. Having all these different words makes them think of snow
> very differently than Americans do.
> Skeptic: How do you know they think differently than Americans do?
> Whorfian: Look at all the words they have for snow!
> First of all, if Inuit who see snow every day have exactly the same
> perception of snow as Americans who have never seen snow in their lives, it
> is the skeptics and not the Whorfians who have some tough explaining to do.
> Secondly, there is really NOTHING circular about language being both cause
> and effect: the language of previous generations is an effect for them and a
> cause for us. In the same way, a question like "What do I call you?" is both
> effect and cause, and so is its effect, namely the answer. What's so hard
> about that?
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> PS:
> Actually, Paul, though I am not a Stones fan, at heart I am a street
> fightin' man like you.... But you can see that our Dear Mike takes his
> pastoral duties on this list very seriously indeed, and that's surely one
> reason why the list is such a nice quiet place to work.
> dk
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Sincerely yours Bella Kotik-Friedgut
xmca mailing list
Received on Thu Dec 13 08:01 PST 2007

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