The First Commandment

In my opinion, Oklahoma is a religious state. Most people belong to some kind of Christian church, are willing to discuss it with anyone, and will invite you to join them on Sunday after knowing you for a short five minutes. I am not trying to criticize, I merely find it quite different compared to my hometown. With their shared roots, it is interesting to compare Christianity, with its many varied sects, and Judaism. This semester, I attended a guest lecture hosted by the Schusterman Center about varied interpretations of the First Commandment.

This fall ,the Schusterman Center brought Dr. Jim Diamond , a distinguished Jewish studies professor from the University of Waterloo, to campus as a guest speaker. His lecture was entitled: “Do We All Serve the Same God? The First ‘Commandment’” Although different religious traditions divide the Ten Commandments differently, the gist of the First Commandment is, “I am the Lord, your God.” As Dr. Diamond discussed, there is some contention over whether this is a commandment or a statement. During his lecture, he discussed the different interpretations of the First Commandment through the years by different religious groups in different countries. As someone who is not particularly familiar with Jewish studies, it was very interesting to hear the perspective of an expert on the matter. As a math major, I prefer dealing with exact sciences, subtleties that can be extrapolated and proved beyond a doubt. I have never taken a philosophy class and I do not have a lot of experience with subjective analysis beyond a few literature courses. Dr. Diamond’s lecture made me think about the distinctions between religious sects resulting from the cultural differences that quietly divide countries, states, and even cities.

German Poetry Night

During my first semester at OU, and during my first-ever German class, I was invited to attend a German poetry night hosted by the OU German Club. I don’t remember exactly why I went, although I suspect that my teacher offered extra credit. It was a lovely experience and it really opened my eye to German in new setting. The only German I had ever heard outside of class was in familiar Christmas carols sung every winter. My teacher encouraged me and everyone else in the class to participate, by reciting a poem or singing a song, but I was much too hesitant about my beginner-level German. Like most people, I get nervous talking in front of groups. My hands start shaking and my heart starts racing and I worry about how I’m standing, where I’m looking, and how I’m pronouncing my words. Everything gets worse when I’m not using my native language. When I attended the German poetry night this year, I decided to face my fears. In pursuit of extra credit, of course.

This semester I have been taking German Literature and Film, a course that dives into the expression of German artists as they process and reflect upon the tumultuous events of the twentieth century. It was difficult at first to process the metaphors and subtle insinuations that were tucked into innocuous, even simplistic events. Sarcasm is a great example. In English, I can follow the train of conversation well enough to recognize when a speaker is utilizing irony to emphasize a point or make a joke. This skill, however, has not yet carried over to German. In order to challenge my limits, I selected a poem by Bertolt Brecht. An esteemed playwright, Brecht is a master of provoking his audience and defying their expectations. When searching for the poem I wanted to recite, I found one stuffed with irony about the pursuit of education. It intrigued me, as did the poem’s effect on the audience. I think that as I move forward towards fluency, poetry will become a useful tool in exploring the subtleties of the language.

CIS Career Fair

Despite the abundance of student resources at OU, I’m always thankful for CIS putting together a sort of career/involvement fair for students later in their OU careers. The Career Fair on November 14th featured a number of on-and-off campus folks, and I appreciate the chance to meet with some reps both from the Carl Albert Center and the OU College of Law just to talk about options and see kind of where I Might end up in a few years. I don’t have plans to work extensively with either organization, but getting the lay of the land for post-grad is always helpful. Of course, I also always appreciate seeing Melanie Adams and getting my resume critiqued. Melanie has been one of my favorite people at OU and certainly a helpful one for my own career path. I was also encouraged to see Sally’s List there… after their success with Kendra Horn and their bench of candidates, I’m hoping they’ll be able to recruit some new talent from CIS and continue to do the great work they’re known for.

Day of the Dead

OU’s Day of the Dead street fair, I think, is one of the best events that we host on campus because it provides something unique for everyone in attendance. Folks that attend that don’t typically celebrate the holiday can gain an appreciation for the event and try some delicious food, while community members that don’t interact with OU get an opportunity to see the amazing work that our Hispanic students do to support the community. I wasn’t able to stay for too long this year (really only enough to grab some food, walk around, and give a hug to my friend who was in charge), but the feeling of celebration and community was palpable in a way that most other campus events are not. As we move into a time of fierce budget cuts, especially around the offices of Student Life and Student Affairs, I hope that Gallogly chooses to not scrap this event. HASA is able to bring a small piece of the Hispanic world to OU, and I think that’s beautiful.

Day of the Dead Festival

Because I love the movie Coco so much, I decided to go to OU’s Day of the Dead festival at the Lloyd Noble Center. The experience I had was very similar to the feeling I get when watching the film. There was an aura of community and family at the festival. There were people from different walks of life that were able to come together and celebrate family past and present. In such divisive times, I think it’s so important to hold on to moments like this when people are able to come together with a common purpose.

The festival itself was so much fun. There was live music, rides, and amazing food. I waited an hour for street tacos, but they were the best darn tacos I have ever eaten. I don’t regret a thing. There were booths selling a multitude of things, but one of my favorites was a booth selling skull keychains made of recycled records. Most important though was the ofrenda. I loved that they had a place for photos of loved ones lost so that the community could come together and support each other during this holiday.

iac international bazaar

October 4th, 2018

This morning, just after class, I went to the International Advisory Committee’s International Bazaar. The IAC has this event a couple of times a year, where different international students in different international organizations are able to set up tables and share their country and pride with others. I spoke with a girl from the Iranian Student Association who was selling handmade and hand-painted Iranian dishes. Her friend is the artist, and she hand draws a mandela-esque (think symmetrical and geometric) design onto a shallow bowl. Then she uses colorful shiny paint that creates an intricate, beautiful design on the piece. She also hand painted a vase as well. They were beautiful pieces that I could not afford, but it really cool to see a way that someone is able to remain in touch and close to their culture and who they are through this art.

Then I met two girls from the Turkish Student Association, and one of them was wearing a fez. I got a bunch of trivia about Turkey wrong, and then they offered me some food! I had some tea and a cookie. There is so many different student associations that I honestly had never heard of. The Ex-Yugoslav Student Association gave me some candy, I talked to a guy from the Peruvian Student Association. There were representatives from the Indian Student Association that danced in front of everyone, and Focus Africa was an African Student Group that emphasized rethinking Africa. I talked to a guy whose favorite event just happened recently on Empowering Women in Africa. It was fun to hear other students hold onto their culture through their student associations and this bazaar. I loved feeling their pride in who they are and know they feel comfortable expressing that pride on campus.

LATINO FLAVOR

March 14, 2018

Latino Flavor is an annual event that the Hispanic American Student Association holds every year, and I was so excited to attend this semester. I had heard such good things about the event from last semester, and I had many friends who were extremely involved in putting on the event.

The entire week, HASA spends time promoting Latinx cultures and holds small events the entire week to lead up to their large event in the Molly Shi Ballroom. From llamas on the South Oval to cultural performances during a luncheon, I had a great time attended so many of these events.

LatinoFlavor provides so much food from so many different countries. I got to try so many different foods and desserts. I had Spanish Paella and more. I also got the chance to watch a mariachi band play while eating and drinking and tasting so many different foods.

I learned a lot about expanding my pallet and just forcing myself to try something new and different than what I was expecting or what I already liked. I also got to see so much passion from students about their culture from dancing, food, friends, to pride.

 

Three Idiots

The Integrity Council hosted a Bollywood movie night a few weeks ago as a part of Integrity Week. They showed a movie called Three Idiots, and I would highly recommend any readers who haven’t seen it to give it a watch. Three Idiots addressed a lot of themes related to the intense stress present in high pressure academic environments. Some of these themes were related to academic integrity (hence the reason that the integrity council hosted the showing), but there were also many scenes related to mental health and suicide. That being said, the movie overall was very fun and the ending seemed to encourage the audience to follow their dreams rather than worrying about other’s expectations.

One interesting thing I noticed while watching the film was that the characters alternated between speaking English and Hindi. India is the second most linguistically diverse country in the world, so this made me curious as to the roles English and Hindi play in cross-linguistic communication in India. Another linguistically interesting aspect of the film was a scene in which a character who is not entirely fluent in Hindi gives a speech written in “high Hindi” which he doesn’t understand. He was reciting a memorized speech which was written in a register of Hindi which is very formal and not often spoken. The main characters took advantage of the fact that this register was not intelligible to the person who would be giving the speech in order to tamper with the script we would be memorizing beforehand. It was very interesting to see how language could be used to construct a prank in this way.

African Language Death is African

Recently a linguistics professor, Dr. Samuel Beer, who completed his undergraduate work at the University of Oklahoma, returned to OU to give a talk on his research. He also visited my Phonetics class and gave a guest lecture on that same day. Dr. Beer studies a severely endangered African language: Nyang’i. In fact, there is only one partial native speaker of Nyang’i still living today. Dr. Beer’s research has involved gathering recordings of Nyang’i from the last remaining speaker in order to write a grammatical description of the language.  This has also afforded hm the opportunity to study language death in Africa. In his lecture, Dr. Beer discussed the three ways in which languages die:

1. Attrition: speakers losing competence in the language over time

2. Interrupted acquisition: children being unable to acquire fluency in the language.

3. Interference: speakers primarily speaking another language

While the first two cause a dying language to retain only those features which are essential or especially characteristic of the language, the third will cause the dying language to adopt features of the interfering language as it dies. Due to a variety of factors, from the fact that most linguists speak European languages to the effects of colonialism, most study of language death has been done on languages being replaced by English or other European languages. This has had the unintended effect of causing all recorded cases of language death to document that as 1 and 2 are causing a language to retain only it’s core characteristics, it also becomes more and more similar to English (due to 3). This has the potential to cause researchers to mistake core features of dying languages cross linguistically with interfering features from European languages.

In Dr. Beer’s research, Nyang’i is being supplanted not by a European language, but by another African language: Karamajong.  Thus study of both Karamajong and Nyang’i has the potential to provide valuable insight into how different interfering languages effect language death, as well as correct some misconceptions present in the current understanding of language death. While there are many endangered languages in Africa today, these languages are not being supplanted by colonial languages, so Dr. Beer ended his lecture by emphasizing that this is an area which could really benefit from further research.

French Students and General Education

One of my favorite things about OU is that we are an institution that prioritizes international relationships not only on an individual level, but also on an institutional one. One such example of those relationships exists between the College of Arts and Sciences Leadership Scholars (of which I am a member) and the University in Clermont-Ferrand, a town in France that our new members visit the summer after they join the organization. Because of this relationships, we also try to welcome the students of Clermont-Ferrand when they end up studying abroad here at the University of Oklahoma. One such event that we had this year was a study night where we shared food, played games, and studied together. There were not too many students that ended up showing up, but those that did seemed to be engaged and to enjoy the event.

I got the chance to speak to one of the students about the differences in coursework between Europe and the United States and while the experiences seemed to mostly be similar, I was also struck that the idea of general education was pretty foreign to these students (pun intended). One student, a biology major, was unsure why she had to take a literature course when that wasn’t her field of study, especially considering that she had studied these things before university. This made me wonder about the salience of general education courses in education systems that actually value and fund education… in a European system that pays teachers well, invests in schools, and generally promotes education as a means of mobility, is general education necessary at the university level? A lot of research indicates that general education courses at universities are remedial at best… so maybe it is time to reconsider where they fit relative to our international counterparts.