party conversations

Siny thinks I didn’t reference her last time, but I did. The birthday girl had it right: no permission, no name – but one might still appear-by-implication in an account of some interaction! This time I only intended to stay an hour but then blogtalk happened. I became excited . . .
Sangria Grrl gave me the hardest time. “The blog feels private, like I’m reading your diary!” Nah &emdash; I am just sharing my mind (such as it is!) Nicole nailed the point: once I have written and “published” online then the information (the thinking) “is public.” Some of us had fun recalling the new tradition (we tried to invent) at Winter Solstice: various cuisines throughout the night, except “American came first and was so big there was no room for anyone else!” Gulp, we’ll definitely have to recalibrate for next time. 🙂
(All the parties, by the way, are categorized (with some other things) as “group dynamics.”)
I got totally jazzed talking with Adam and attempted to blog right then and there. (Never did that before!) Sangria Grrl busted me, even to the point of confiscating my notes (she did return them, so now she is complicit, right?)! Later in the evening, I was double-teamed sandwiched between Halona and The-Guy-Who-Doesn’t-Trust-Me: “Do you think everybody has an accent?” Of course! But it is not the sound that matters (imho). The cool ness factor of people learning and speaking new languages is the process of making meaning – in fact, this is a very-darn-neat process even among monolinguals: how does anyone agree on what something means?
Adam told me about Tanzania, which is the only country in Africa that is united by a common tongue. “What you have to understand is that we have one national language which one can speak east to west and north to south.” Swahili is one of the most widespread African languages, but unlike other countries with large Swahili-speaking populations (Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Congo), all 120 tribes of Tanzania speak Swahili and therefore do not have to resort to a colonial language (i.e., English in Kenya & Uganda, French in Burundi and Congo) to communicate with each other. The “local-local tribes” also speak native Bantu languages. This singular fact makes Tanzania “peculiar,” according to Adam, because the common tongue “makes us more united &emdash; we are the only [African] country where everyone speaks one language.” Indeed, Adam attributed the presence of a unifying national language to the fact that Tanzania has never had a civil war.
Neat, huh? 🙂 The phenomena, and Adam’s pride in it, seems to support (or extend?) Benedict Anderson’s argument about the functional role of languages in Europe as a tool in the construction of nationalistic imagined communities. My more specific interest is in how (if, whether) current language policies and practices in the European Union will promote a shift away from nationalism (egoistic, xenophobic) to broader self-identifications and also if, when, and how language policies can be extended beyond the political borders of citizenship to the practical day-to-day livelihoods of transnational workers, displaced persons, and their families.

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