As I was walking up to campus this morning, I passed a bunch of security guards that I've been passing every morning. Usually they are spread around through campus but today they were hanging out, talking in I don't know what African language. I wonder if all the orientation stuff this week, there will be a chance for language help. I couldn't even hope to learn a new language but I sure would like to be able to identify one or two. When the guards saw me, they greeted me in English. Obvious enough. The guards are all younger than me, except maybe for one guy who seems sort of the "elder statesman", and doesn't smile. The rest are quite friendly. Anyway hearing the rolling, clicking, speach from the VHF reminded me of my recuring nightmares from last August about remembering and pronouncing my students' names. The very least I can do is get their names right. I love the sound of the language on the radio. The cadence and intonation remind me of the Caribbean and the American south. I wonder if there's any link there, or if all African languages still sound the same to me? If the orientation was being run by Americans, it would almost certainly include an introduction to some of the more prevalent languages and cultures among the student body. Well, I guess I'll ask. How typically American of me to want a cheat sheet or a powerpoint bullet slide telling me what I need to know in 50 words or less. Gotta quit this feeling of "hurry." I don't have to understand it all THIS WEEK.
As I continued up to campus I crossed under De Waal Dr. and started thinking about basic pronounciations. Growing up in California we learn to interpret place names as English or Spanish and assign a different phoenetic system when we pronounce them. This happens without thinking. In the case of De Waal, the double "a" tips us off that it's Dutch, and therefore the "w" should be pronounced "v". But the Californian method isn't really Spanish in pronounciation, but a California pigeon. Like San Rafael - We say "rafell", real Spanish would be "rafiyel", but applying more typical American English phoenetics would give us "rafale". In order to follow directions here I often have to get someone to spell out street names. If you have heard "Duvall" would you (driving on a freeway) know to turn on "De Waal"? That's an easy one, try a street name with clicks in it! Shoot.