A poem for the many.


Today’s the day, the time is now to have your say in this political row.

It’s up to us, we can’t back down. This isn’t the time to sink and drown.

If you do nothing else today, go outside. Make today the day you tried.

People have given their lives to make our voices heard and see the ground shake.

Change won’t happen without your say, and things don’t have to be this way.

Yes alright, we might not win, but Jezza believes in me, and I in him.

Do yourself and your future a favour. Get off your butt and #VoteLabour

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Awkward Moment #20: The Blag, A Dying Art Form.


A question for my fellow language lubbers: why is it that as soon as people hear that you study languages, they automatically presume you to have encyclopaedic knowledge of anything and everything non-English, ever?

Seriously, has this ever happened to you? Let me demonstrate.
Exhibit A:

You find yourself at a party of a friend of a friend of that guy with the hipster haircut, when suddenly, mid-mingle, you are drawn into conversation.

“So what do you study?” A young chap asks, drinking a beer with a straw. Who even is this guy?

“Modern Languages,” you confirm, with a hint of pride in your voice as you smile and nod modestly. Yep, that’s how I roll. You know it.

“Wow, that’s so cool. Any in particular?” He enquires. Honestly. Nope, I speak all languages in the world ever. Moron.

“Spanish and Italian mostly”, you nod with a casual shrug of the shoulder. No big deal really.

“Amazing. So you’re fluent then?” He nods back at you.
Wait, what?

“Um, well I…” you begin, but it’s already too late.

“Because this one time I was on holiday and this guy comes up to me and says…”

Your stomach flips.
Shit.

The unforeseeable yet inevitable is now staring you in the face. You now carry the enormous burden of understanding and interpreting to perfection whatever it is that comes out of this guys mouth, no matter how massacred the pronunciation nor how ridiculous the accent. It’s like a Mexican stand-off with a Collins dictionary.

It could be in any dialect from any part of the world meaning absolutely anything. If you don’t perfectly understand every single world of the following and in doing so, decipher it with confidence and flare, you are deemed useless. You’ve let your family down, your friends down and worst of all, you’ve let England down. You are a pitiful excuse for a linguist, now away with you.

Voices begin raging inside your head as you try to concentrate on what he’s saying, almost certain that the universe has chosen promiscuous pronouns, vile verbs and toxic tenses to form the bulk of the phrase, not to mention throwing in a cheeky imperfect subjunctive, nestled comfortably between false friends (frightfully fiendish, those false friends).

So what do I do? I hear you ask.

You, my friend, must do what every great linguist since time in memorial has done before you in a woeful situation such as this. You make that shit up.

Narrowing your eyes, you listen carefully to what he is saying, attempting a pensive expression as if your mind were meandering the forests of genius and wordreference.com…but the words tumble from his lips and land on the floor in a puddle of confusion. Was that even a word? And what was that? Chinese?!

Beneath your cool, reserved exterior, your interior, with clammy palms, fumbles for a sentence – any sentence – to pass off as a decent translation.

“I see, right…well, it sounds…um, where exactly were you when you heard this?” This looks like a blag…might as well milk it.

“Just outside of Naples,” he says. You continue to mentally scratch your head. The silence is growing, he’s on to you. Stall him.

“Ah, yes of course, it does sound rather…Neapolitan.” Oh, good work. His eyebrows rise slightly. He’s intrigued. Keep going.

“…yes, and I think the emphasis on that last expression could mean that…” Pause, but remain pensive. Calm, cool, a cucumber…

“…yes? What could it mean? Was it rude?!” The tension is building, the anticipation is killing him. Go for something scandalous. Make him want it.

“It sounds like, ‘I need somewhere to hide the body…'” Nailed it.

“What!?! Surely not, I mean…” He laughs nervously.

“Don’t look at me; I don’t know what you get up to on holiday! After all, what happens in Naples…” Turning the tables on him, nicely done!

“You aren’t seriously suggesting…” He looks incredulous now. Quick, separate yourself from the situation.

“Of course not, after all…I just speak the language”. OOOOOOOOHHHHH. Take that!

You see? Handled with flare, confidence and even a few idioms. Like a pro.
Your tutors would be so proud.

Italy: A Multicultural Myth?


cecile-kyenge

Cécile Kyenge, born in the Congo in 1964, moved to Italy in 1983. As the Minister for Integration she is the first black member of the Italian cabinet. She believes in the right to Italian citizenship for anyone born on Italian soil, and the country seems to hate her for it.

She has been subjected to very brutal and very public racial attacks on several occasions. A fellow female politician was forced to resign her post in June after suggesting on Facebook that Kyenge “should be raped so she understands how victims of crimes committed by immigrants feel”. Recently she has been likened to a prostitute in reaction to her suggestion of a policy in which second homes could be rented out to homeless people. Cristiano Za Garibaldi, the deputy mayor of the town of Diano Marina in the northern region of Liguria implied on his public Facebook profile that Kyenge frequented a road in an area infamous for being used by prostitutes, many of whom are black.

In July, right-wing Northern League leader and Senator Roberto Calderoli compared Kyenge to an orang-utan and in the same month, whilst speaking at a political rally in Central Italy, a member of the public hurled bananas at her.

However, it could be suggested that Italy does not only take issue with Kyenge’s ideas, but also with the idea of immigration in itself. Shortly before the incident, members of the far-right Forza Nuova group left mannequins covered in fake blood near the rally site. “Immigration kills,” was written on leaflets accompanying the dummies – a slogan Forza Nuova has previously used when referring to murders committed by immigrants in Italy.

Is this a sign that Italy is struggling to deal with the social hurdles that arise from immigration and citizenship issues without creating a controversial and vicious environment? National identity has always been unchartered territory for this regionally-orientated country, after all Italy did not technically exist before 1860, when the peninsula became a unified country under one flag and crown. Dialects and traditions dictated the social norm for many. Communication was almost impossible and isolation was inevitable. It was the birth of modern technology that brought Italy out of the darkness, along with the standardisation of a national language, but regional identity still takes precedence, if only the dialects were mutually intelligible…

Italy barely knows its own self, and yet it snubs those who contribute to an increasingly multicultural society, regardless of their own background, and who desire to become part of it. I just don’t understand it. It’s almost as if an Italian passport is some kind of golden ticket into the Chocolate Factory. Careful now, Italia, let’s not go down that road again…