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30 minutes | 4 months ago
Subtitle presents A Better Life?
Here’s a guest episode from our friends at A Better Life?, a podcast about the immigrant experience in the time of COVID-19. The episode follows two US-based immigrants. Heeja, born in South Korea, and Elsa, born in Mexico, both wrestle with the same question: “Should I stay or should I go?” Music in this episode by Fareed Sajan. The photo of Heeja and her children Jeff and Mia is courtesy of Mia Warren. Read more about A Better Life? here. More on Subtitle here.
31 minutes | 5 months ago
We Speak: Tina
Tina Tobey was born and raised in Texas. She’s used to non-Texans expecting her to know all about oil-drilling and ranching. And of course to speak “like a Texan.” While she barely meets those expectations, Tina has come to realize that she speaks more Texas English than she thought. Also in this episode: how difficult is it to win an accent bias lawsuit? And to overcome our own accent biases? This is the fourth and final part in our series on speech, identity and bias. Notes on contributors: Tina Tobey is Subtitle’s sound designer. Lars Hinrichs is the director of the Texas English Language Lab at the University of Texas. Erica Brozovsky is also at the University of Texas where she researches the speech of Taiwanese Texans. New York-based attorney Melinda Koster has litigated employment discrimination cases and written about the topic of accent discrimination. Erez Levon teaches sociolinguistics at Queen Mary University of London and is the principal investigator of the Accent Bias in Britain project. The music in this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, Biddy Sullivan, Moss Harman, Alexandra Woodward and Alan Carlson-Green. The photo is courtesy of Tina Tobey who is pictured in her youth atop a Texas-bred horse. Read a transcript of this episode here.
23 minutes | 6 months ago
We Speak: Ciku
Why doesn’t Ciku Theuri sound Black? Her friends wanted to know. Eventually, she wanted to know. Ciku tells the story of how she came to speak the way she does—and how others, from Ohio to Kenya, perceive her speech. (Spoiler alert: she does sound Black.) Also in this episode: why many Americans choose the voices of Black celebrities for their digital assistants. This is the third in our four-part series on speech, identity and bias. Ciku Theuri is a producer with WBUR/NPR public radio show, Here & Now. Nicole Holliday teaches linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Much of her research is focused on one question: What does it mean to sound Black? Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions, Jobii, and Podington Bear. The photo of Ciku Theuri (credit: Amanda Pitts) is from her graduation at Oakwood University, Alabama, in 2015. Read a transcript of this episode here.
20 minutes | 6 months ago
We Speak: Verónica
Verónica Zaragovia lives in Miami but she was born in Colombia. Although she has a Colombian passport, her Spanish doesn’t sound Colombian— at least that’s what people tell her. During a recent stay in Bogotá, she decided to change that: she took lessons in Colombian Spanish. Along the way, she gained a new understanding of how language and identity interact. This is the second in our four-part series on speech and bias. Verónica Zaragovia is a reporter with Miami public radio station, WLRN. Phillip Carter is the author of many articles on Spanish in the United States. Music in this episode by Podington Bear, BLAEKER, Headlund, and Louie Wuatton. The photo is of Verónica Zaragovia in Cali, Colombia. Read a transcript of this episode here.
33 minutes | 7 months ago
We Speak: Patrick and Kavita
We are how we speak, right? Well, it’s complicated— enough so to spend Subtitle’s next four episodes on this question. We’ll tell the stories of a diverse collection of people, tracing how each came to speak the way they do. Along the way, we’ll ask: Is speech a good barometer of identity? Does anyone truly speak authentically? Why are we so judgmental about how others speak? And how can we overcome our biases? In this first episode, hosts Patrick Cox and Kavita Pillay tell their stories. Jane Setter’s book about speech and accent bias is Your Voice Speaks Volumes. Colleen Cotter researches the language of journalism and cultural representation. Dennis Preston is the editor of the Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology. Romona Robinson’s memoir is A Dirt Road to Somewhere. Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, Spectacles Wallet and Watch, Honeycutts, Alan Carlson-Green, Moss Harman, Josef Bel Habib and Arthur Benson. The photos are of Patrick and Kavita when they were so very young. Read a transcript of this episode here.
23 minutes | 7 months ago
The birth of a language
In 1986, Nicaraguan officials invited American linguist Judy Shepard-Kegl to observe a group of Deaf children. The kids were using an unrecognizable signing system. Over the following years, Shepard-Kegl and other linguists found themselves uniquely placed to observe what they came to realize was the emergence of a new language. Today, Nicaraguan Sign Language has its own complex grammar and a broad vocabulary. What can it tell us about how languages evolve? Photo of Deaf youth with Deaf outreach workers in rural Nicaragua courtesy of Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear and Martin Klem. Read a transcript of this episode here.
24 minutes | 8 months ago
‘Sisu’ gets an update
Finland has been named the happiest country in the world. So why is sisu the word that best describes Finns? Associated with war and endurance, sisu means stoic perseverance against almost insurmountable odds. But this small, cold nation is changing, as is the meaning of sisu. In these tumultuous times, this short Finnish word may have something to offer the rest of the world. Photo by fintuq via Pixabay. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Isobelle Walton, Trabant 33, Chill Cole, Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
20 minutes | 8 months ago
A metaphor for our times
In unsettled times, we reach for metaphors. They help us make sense of the nonsensical—or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. In this episode, we hear from linguist Elena Semino, editor of a crowd-sourced publication called the Metaphor Menu intended for people with cancer. She assesses the merits of coronavirus metaphors, from battlefield clichés to forest fires to contaminated swimming pools. Photo by Jo Zimny Photos. Music by Moss Harman, Megan Woffard, Alexandra Woodward, Heath Cantu, Sights of Wonder, Remodal, Sons of Hades, Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
18 minutes | 8 months ago
In quarantine with Joe Wong
Joe Wong is a brilliant bilingual comedian. In the US, he does standup. In his native China he hosts a popular TV game show. Recently his comedy has become more political: he is confronting US racial tensions head-on. In quarantine, Joe is writing a book, cooking for his son (to his son’s dismay), and decrying virus-related anti-Asian hate crimes. Music in this episode by Podington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions, Particle House and Treadline. Read a transcript of this episode here.
23 minutes | 9 months ago
In quarantine with Joanna Hausmann
Bilingual comedian Joanna Hausmann (pictured with her mother Ana Julia Jatar-Hausmann) is sitting out the lockdown at her Venezuelan parents’ New England home. She tells us of her love of outdated Venezuelan slang; also about parenting her parents (in both Spanish and English); and how the restrictions of quarantine are unleashing her creative instincts. Photo by Joanna Hausmann. Music by Podington Bear, Isobelle Walton, Nathan Welch, Flooaw, and Million Eyes. Read a transcript of this episode here.
20 minutes | 9 months ago
At war, and not at war
In this episode, we talk with American medical student Esther Kim (pictured). She’s trying to overcome her suspicion of people with a particular accent, one that she’s come to associate with racist taunts. The COVID-19 wave of anti-Asian harassment has made things worse. Also, Stanford professor Seema Yasmin tells us why pandemics bring out the language of war. Photo by Esther Kim. Music by Bonnie Grace, David Celeste, Podington Bear, Philip Ayers, Craft Case, Airae, and Joseph Alesci. Read a transcript of this episode here.
19 minutes | 10 months ago
One virus, many languages
We can’t travel. We can’t hug or visit loved ones. But we can talk our way through this pandemic — and we’re doing just that, in most of the world’s languages. In this episode we hear from Kavita Pillay’s mother, who tells a story from her childhood in southern India. And a filmmaker in New York talks about her home quarantine activity, translating Russian video footage full of phrases from the past. Photos: Nola Cox and Sauli Pillay. Music by Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions. Read a transcript of this episode here.
21 minutes | 10 months ago
Hassnae Bouazza was born in Morocco. She didn’t speak a word of Dutch when she immigrated to the Netherlands, though today it’s effectively her mother tongue. The Dutch government now insists that would-be immigrants like Bouazza pass a Dutch language “entrance exam.” Are Dutch officials using language to keep “undesirables” out? Or is speaking the local language an essential part of living in the Netherlands? Photo by Patrick Cox. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear, Atisound, and Gridded. Thanks to Sara Wallace Goodman, Ben Coates, Jeremy Helton, Liesbeth Siers, Tracey Keij-Denton, Jos Beelen, Carol Zall, Clark Boyd, Laura Rumbley, and Rose Stories in Amsterdam. Read a transcript of this episode here.
25 minutes | a year ago
How to communicate with aliens
If there are extraterrestrials out there, what kind of messages might they be sending us? How might we decipher those messages? And should we hit reply? Image by Mike Licht via Flickr Creative Commons. Music by Million Eyes, From Now On, Heath Cantu, Christian Andersen, Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
22 minutes | a year ago
Did Katrina kill the New Orleans accent?
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina displaced tens of thousands of New Orleanians. Many never returned to the city. Others have since moved in, bringing with them different languages and dialects. Some locals now wonder if they have lost ‘ownership’ of New Orleans English. Has the linguistic footprint of one of America’s most historically rich and diverse cities changed forever? Read a transcript of this episode here.
19 minutes | a year ago
The talk of the forest
In folklore and fiction there’s a rich tradition of trees that talk, from Greek mythology to The Wizard of Oz. But that’s make-believe, right? Well, maybe. Many ecologists now believe that trees are in constant communication with their surroundings. Linguists may roll their eyes at claims of ‘talk,’ or ‘language.’ But observing how trees interact helps us understand the limits of language. Photo by David Baron via Flickr creative commons. Music by Josef Falkenskold, From Now On, Silver Maple, Imprisoned, Josef Bel Habib and Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
23 minutes | a year ago
Is a polyglot’s brain different?
Susanna Zaraysky, speaker of nine languages, is one of those people who seem able to pick up French or Portuguese almost overnight. In reality, it’s not so effortless—but is she cognitively predisposed to attaining fluency in so many languages? We follow her to an MIT lab where researchers put her through a series of tests. Photo by Patrick Cox. Music by Silver Maple, Lucention, Pause For Concern, Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions. Read a transcript of this episode here.
23 minutes | a year ago
Why Mormons are so good at languages
Stereotypes about Mormon missionaries tend to overshadow their great success in foreign language learning. Why is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so skilled at teaching languages? We hear from missionaries, teachers and scholars, in Utah and Finland. Photo by Kavita Pillay. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Booker and the Yeomans and Podington Bear. Read a transcript of this episode here.
22 minutes | a year ago
Gullah Geechee enters the academy
There’s a new language class on offer at Harvard. Gullah Geechee is a creole language developed by enslaved Africans and still spoken today. As far as anyone knows, it’s the first time it’s been taught anywhere. Sunn M’Cheaux — native speaker turned Harvard instructor — tells his story and the story of Gullah Geechee, a language that is as African as it is American. Music by Blue Dot Sessions, Podington Bear and Ranky Tanky. Photo courtesy Sunn M’Cheaux. Read a transcript of this episode here.
16 minutes | a year ago
The language of diamonds
‘Real’ or ’synthetic’? ‘Authentic’ or ‘lab-grown’? ‘Bloodstained’ or ‘green’? The highly-regulated words that describe diamonds define their narrative — and maybe even their value. We take you to New York’s Diamond District to meet some of its most engaging characters as they struggle to come to terms with the new lexicon of diamonds. Music in this episode by Podington Bear and Blue Dot Sessions. Photo by Alina Simone. Read a transcript of this episode here.
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