Posted by & filed under Multilingual identity.

Political barriers shouldn’t be linguistic barriers I was recently in the former Yugoslavia as an election observer in Macedonia and was pleasantly surprised at how I was able to use Serbo-Croatian to communicate with various people: a Slovenian diplomat, an ethnic Albanian woman in Macedonia and a Macedonian man. When the Slovenian diplomat and I started speaking to our ethnic Albanian interpreter and our Macedonian driver in Serbo-Croatian, we were feeling uneasy about the Albanian’s reaction since she might link Serbo-Croatian to the former Yugoslavian government and its actions against the Kosovar Albanians. (We were in Tetovo, Macedonia, where there were ethnic clashes between Albanians and Macedonians in 2001. So, the topic of ethnic violence was quite relevant.) But, she was fine with our speaking in Serbo-Croatian and responded to us in English or Macedonian. The language surpassed political barriers. The former Yugoslavs reminisced about Yugoslavian sports teams and music groups that existed before the fall of the former Yugoslavia. The Slovenian diplomat told me that children in Slovenia no longer learn Serbo-Croatian and focus only on English and German. Since Slovenia broke apart from the former Yugoslavia and joined the European Union, the country is concentrating on being European… Read more »

Posted by & filed under Experiences, Multilingual identity.

Being a world traveler and polyglot can disorient someone, even a seasoned traveler like myself. I think my brain is not able to process multiple realities simultaneously. I am actually kind of embarrassed to say this given how much I love travel and believe in its benefits. However, my recent trip to Macedonia left me feeling discombobulated, not in my body, disoriented, sick and weak. I think it’s partially due to the fact that I was experiencing multiple languages, cultures and places all at once. Physically, I was in one place — Macedonia. Technically, the name of the country is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or FYROM. I am not going to call it that. I don’t care if someone reading this is Greek and is offended by the country’s name. (Northern Greece is also called Macedonia and the Greek government opposes its northern neighbor’s claim to the name Macedonia, citing that they are the only place with the right to bear that name.) I am not going to entertain nationalism and name wars. I’ll leave it to the diplomats to wrestle with what to call the former Yugoslav Republic. I’ll just call it Macedonia. My body was in… Read more »

Posted by & filed under Multilingual identity.

Are you multilingual and looking for a job? How about being a spy or economic hit man? Candidate character description: Multilingual, sensitive to other cultures, can mix with local populations in difficult areas around the world, can get used to harsh living conditions, can gain trust of people if different countries, smart, and resourceful. Education: Economics, international affairs. Job: Be an economic hit man. Lie for the US government. Manipulate international leaders and governments to accept “economic aid” contracts and bad loans that favor the US and not the recipient country. I fit the character description and educational profile, but the job doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve been mistaken on several occasions as a spy, but I never knew the term “economic hitman” until the book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins was published. I didn’t expect to relate so well to the narrator. I was just curious about the book because several people had mentioned it to me as a good book to read to understand how the US exaggerates how much foreign aid it gives to developing countries. There were several parallels between my life and the author’s life, despite our 30 year age difference…. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Resources.

I’ve never been to the South Pacifc, but if I were to go, I’d check out David Stanley’s Moon Handbook for the South Pacific. ” The most user-friendly travel guide to the South Pacific.” –Paul Therou There are chapters on American Samoa, Cook Islands, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Niue, Pitcairn, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis & Futuna. David Stanley has spent over 20 years traveling in the region and knows his islands well. Just looking at the book cover makes me look forward to the summer.