How important can our language really be?

Welcome back readers! To those of you who are new to my blogspot, my name is Natalia Mitat and I am an Oxford English graduate with a passion for exploring our language and sharing my findings with you all. Although I usually annotate difficult pieces of literature such as the beautiful Herman Melville by Moby Dick, this time I decided to change it up.

In the past month of August, I decided to visit my mothers beautiful home country of Colombia, as a way to take a break from my rapid American lifestyle. Once I arrived back home to the states, I came to several realizations not only about my identity as a whole but the details that lie behind it. I was urged to share these conclusions with my readers not necessarily to share my thoughts on a challenging piece of literature or even to persuade you to visit the wonders that the world has to offer but instead to emphasize the importance of language and how it personally shapes us-starting with me.

Most may not know this about me at first glance, keep in mind I did major in English Literature, but I was raised in a primarily Spanish speaking home as a first generation American. My mother and father both moved to the United States, from Colombia and Cuba, when they were in high school, leaving them at a disadvantage in school. Throughout the years, they picked up on basic words and phrases but never had a deep connection with the English language the same way as they did with Spanish. This influenced me growing up by motivating me to deeply explore English and connect with it in a way that my parents never did. However, I decided to test my waters and take a trip to my mother’s homeland in order to reconnect with my roots.

During my getaway in the beautiful country of Colombia I of course packed several literary works, but this time all with a connection to Spanish. With eight hours to spare, I quickly read through the famous Javier Marías, Rosa Montero, and Enrique Vila-Matas but only one author genuinely stood out to me in the sea of renown works that lay on my mini airplane lap desk-Julia Alvarez. Like me, Alvarez is a Hispanic American with a passion for not only the English language but also the Spanish one. I immersed myself in her poem Bilingual Sestina, and completely began to analyze it and connect it with my own life-a common pattern of mine.

Throughout her poem, Alvarez uses a mixture of both Spanish and English words in order to both compare and contrast these two closely tied languages together. When I first began to read the poem, I felt like the ‘blond, blue-eyed, gum chewing English’ because I lost the importance of why we truly need language as an individual. However, as I continued to read the two of us were more similar than I originally believed. Alvarez discusses that there are some English words that she can’t translate from Spanish which represents the message the poem is truly trying to convey.

This brings light to the linguistic barriers formed when a native speaker begins to adapt a different language as their own. This message is emphasized as Alvarez says in her poem, “a child again learning the nombres of things you point to in the world before English turned sol, tierra, cielo, luna to vocabulary words”. As we first begin to learn a language, the process is very much normal and we instantly connect basic objects to these words. For example, when I was young my mother explained to me that the color of the sky is blue and the sun is yellow by telling me, “el cielo es azul y el sol es amarillo”. Now every time I think about the colors or different objects we familiarize ourselves with as children, I immediately recall the Spanish word before the English one. The main reason ti that is because I learned Spanish through my family and my form of communication and English in a more formal environment through the use of flashcards and my English classes themselves.

This poem by Julia Alvarez also taught me a lesson that no English course at the ‘prestigious’ Oxford was capable of doing. I finally learned that advantages of bilingualism and the importance of language on a being as a whole.

As Alvarez wrote, “where palabras left behind for English stand dusty and awkward in neglected Spanish” I was personally able to comprehend that when we leave behind our native language for a new one, we suddenly become overwhelmed with evolving and adapting to it that we forget about our roots.

Once I began to fall in love and appreciate English, I left Spanish behind in a box that I locked away. However, with Alvarez’s linguistic ability of connecting her audience to several languages, I am able to realize the power that language has on individuals. Not only is Alvarez explaining that she has now adapted to the English language, but she discusses the comfort that is lost as she is evolving to her new way of life. She doesn’t have the same connection with English as she does with Spanish which affects her writing style and emphasis of words throughout her poem. That’s exactly why I loved this poem.

After taking the rest of my vacation to further look at Bilingual Sestina, I fell in love with the poet for bringing back that intimate feeling I once had and reminding me why language is such an important detail behind our lives. I hope that after reading my mini blog and looking further at the poem yourselves, you may begin to understand why I spend everyday of my life exploring language on this blog and sharing it with you all.

Until next time…

The Language Lover

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Day 5

Day five of the Washington Journalism and Media Conference (July 14)  had to be one of the toughest ones yet. My roommate, Armaneu, and I woke up bright and early at 5 am so that we could shower and not feel as exhausted as normal. This trick did work and thank god because the energy was much needed. Our buses arrived at the Capitol Building at around 10 o’clock. We took a group photo in front of the building which felt like it took at least an hour. The sun was brighter than it had been all week and within a few short minutes of being outside we could already feel ourselves being intoxicated with our own sweat. After we were finally able to take the group picture and individual shots, it was every man for themselves. I decided to first tour the Capitol building since I found the structure so interesting. The tour was to begin at 10:30 which left a lot of room for other activities yet started at almost 12 in the afternoon. I went with my new found friends Cat, Allison, Maria and Karina who has from another color group. The tour first started with an educational video just explain what the Capitol building does, who its composed of, and different laws that have been passed there. After the video we followed our tour guide that took us from the visitor center to the dome. Unfortunately, the dome of the building is under construction so almost every single painting and statue was covered. The only skin that was revealed was a small part of the ceilings painting. We then left this room to one filled with statues everywhere. Karina and I were able to get some good pictures including some in front of a replica of the Declaration of Independence. This made me really wish we could go to the National Archives, however we couldn’t. Those 2 rooms were really the only ones he had access during the  tour which made me greatly regret going there in the first place. Cool thing was we were able to see Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. We were not allowed into any of the senate houses due to a meeting taking place including Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. Once we left the Capitol building and snapped some more shots, Karina and I made our way to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. My  new friend and I were amazed with all of the fossils, mammals and gems that were stored in the exhibits. We were only able to stay for about an hour or so since we had to meet the whole group at 2:30 at the quite far, Air and Space Museum. We walked back outside in the scorching heat and found the best opportunity to avoid heat stroke. A bike tour! Karina and I sat on a bench connected to a bike holding an umbrella so that we would not have to walk all the way to the groups meeting spot. On our way we passed by the National Archives building along with quite a few Starbucks all while enjoying the beautiful breeze and avoiding the heat! Once we got to the Air and Space Museum we looked around the first floor when we decided it was necessary to put some food into our stomachs. We went to McDonalds since it was the only place there, finished our food and snapped some more shots of the beautiful museum. Old planes and helicopters were hung from the ceilings and we even were able to see some older nuclear missiles. We met with our group and parted ways with the beautiful Capitol Hill. I really wish we were able to spend some more time so that we could go to more of the museums that filled the area. Once we arrived back to George Mason, we had about 2 hours to get ready for the gala that night. I did my makeup and put on a beautiful dress my grandma Miriam bought me for the event. My feet were killing me but I still sported my favorite nude Steve Madden heels. At the gala, which took place at the Westfield Marriot in Virginia, we had a blast with our group. We ate a dinner filled with bread, salad, chicken and chocolate cake. After the delicious meal we listened to music and some danced but we did everything together as a group- the red group. The people in my group are such amazing and diverse individuals that I never expected to get so close to. Once we arrived back on campus, we spent the short time we have before bed check, playing never have I ever. My roommate and I packed our luggages ate leftover pizza and had a very fun night together- we knew it would be the last.

Till next time,

N

 

Day 3: Speeches Galore

Tuesday, July 12th was an extremely busy day for all of the correspondents and I, listening to speakers and especially discussing our views of the political world. We first traveled to the National Geographic headquarters to listen to the Editor-in-Chief, Susan Goldberg. This was an amazing talk in which she discussed the importance that photo journalism has on the world. She also elaborated the fact that we have to keep reporting stories so that people can hear us. There are many untold stories from everywhere across the globe that deserves a voice. Ms.Goldberg also explained the 5 principles of storytelling which includes: making a difference, do what others can’t, be part of the conversation, act urgently and lastly know who you are. It is extremely essential to connect with readers and be able to please them. There are so many different news outlets that we can not be all reporting the same thing. A good journalist finds the hidden angle and takes the story a different route which sets us aside from everybody else.

After National Geographic, we drove to Buca di Beppo which was an amazing Italian restaurant. My color group (red) and I all sat together and it was the first time we have really bonded in my opinion. We looked at funny baby pictures of each other and talked about all of our lives back home. I find it so crazy how much we are all different. Some correspondents go to a school with only 30 kids per grade! Once we finished our chicken parmesan, spaghetti, fettuccine alfredo and cheesecake we were en route to the National Press Club.

At the National Press Club, we listened to the founder of C-SPAN, Brian Lamb.The  Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, is an American cable and satellite television network. He ran a Socratic seminar and asked us questions about what are our opinions on this years political campaign. I had so much fun being able to express my opinion because it is not something young teens have the chance of doing often. After this, we had a political panel consisting of Lisa Gring-Premble (George Mason Professor), Jen Bendery (White House correspondent for Huff. Post), Zach Wineburg (Google Election) and Karin Caifa (CNN reporter). They answered many of our questions about the different candidates. I also learned the importance of getting a better understanding before reporting by talking to eyewitnesses and getting a different point of view.

Later that night after we had dinner back at George Mason, we listened to the New York Times White House correspondent, Mike Shear. This has to be one of my favorite speakers because he really sparked my interest in wanting to become a White House correspondent. I am really interested in working in government, more specifically politics and I find this a perfect solution. He noted that it is very important to build your relationship with your source in order to gain their trust and learn more important details.

After the speaker, we had a color group meeting and got an insight of what we would be doing tomorrow- a newspaper simulation. We looked at brands and how to promote yourself using elevator pitches.

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Day 2!

Inspiration can generally sum up my morning which I spent in Arlington, Virginia listening to Hoda Kotb speak. She really showed how trying hard and doing whatever it takes is the way to success. Hoda drove thousands of miles for a job interview and after many rejections she finally got a “yes” in a small town. The fact that she was able to handle the sadness that comes with a rejection and still keep trying amazed me. Today I learned that whatever I want to do I can do it as long as I try my hardest to ensure that happens. With hard work and dedication everything is possible. Later on that afternoon, I visited the Newseum in D.C. for the very first time. It was amazing to see the different styles of print all over the globe and what the world interprets journalism as. This museum was extremely interesting because of all of the old newspapers and the most current ones making it easy to depict how far we have come. I also learned about how dangerous journalism can be in every single way. For example, photographing the starvation in less developed countries can produce a guilt in you. In more literal terms, you can go out of your comfort zone in order to be an eye witness and may even cost your life. All of these risks just show how spreading the news of the world is an addicting lifestyle with no end. This makes me look forward to the countless years I hope to spend chasing each and every news story. I also learned about a particular female by the name of Nellie Bly who was the first detective woman journalist. She allowed herself to be taken to an asylum in order to write a story about the terrible conditions in the mental hospital. This just shows how dedicated she was to becoming a better known writer. Later on after melting in the heat waiting for lunch, I finally saw the national monuments for the first time ever. It all seemed so surreal almost like a dream. I never have really pictured myself being in Washington DC posing in front of the White House, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. I am now currently laying in bed after a warm shower hoping my feet get enough rest after this long and tiresome day.

WJMC Day 1

Today was my first day of the Washington Journalism Media Conference and so far the 12 hours that I have spent here have been extremely enjoyable and kind of strange. I endured my very first flight alone from LA to Chicago and then DC. When the shuttle finally left DCA at around 1 the only thing I had in my stomach was a burrito bowl from the airport and no sleep at all. Receiving my press pass and seeing the beautiful campus has made this experience so much better. The dorms are amazing and my roommate, a senior from Kentucky, is so much fun to be around. The campus tour that took place at 3:30 really made this feel like a college visit which it is in a sense. I have completely fallen in love with the peaceful environment that is so much more different than the crowded city of Los Angeles. The city surrounding the school also looks very calm and seems rich with history. Later on that evening, I soaked so much information about journalism it made my mind content with knowledge. The speaker at dinner, Tina Rosenberg  really changed my way of thinking. She is a NY Times columnist and loves to write about social issues and different ways the world can fix them by using her newly found company, Solutions Journalism. She explained how we need to be able to write the same story in various different angles to appeal to what our audience wants to hear.

For example, currently our world is suffering from discrimination against several races as well as police brutality. Instead of journalists writing a story about how terrible this is, we should really be showing how other states and countries have overcome these obstacles.

I think I am really going to apply this to the rest of the articles I write for my school paper, The Growl, because it will really ensure a positive article as well as an interesting grabber to the students. After being awake for more than 24 hours I think that it is finally time to call it a night. Tomorrow will be a long day of sightseeing as well as Hoda Kotb!

Preparation

My name is Natalia Mitat. I am a currently a junior at South Hills High School in West Covina, California. All my life I have wanted to be successful and have now recently come to fall in love with journalism, a career I wish to pursue. This journey starts tomorrow night as I travel more than 2,000 miles across the country to Washington DC. The Washington Journalism and Media Conference will be the first of many different stepping stones I will reach in order to achieve greatness. Follow me through my journey along the way…