How to Use English to Create Cultural Connections

Martin HeadJonathan Martin
Associate Student Representative, Southwestern Region, 2015-2016
Rho Mu Chapter
Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City, OK

Last summer I gained a new appreciation for language. I spent the six weeks between May 17 and June 28 in Yaizu City, Shizuoka, Japan. The value of language as a method to exchange ideas has never been clearer. My trip’s purpose was to converse with local residents who were interested in increasing their English conversational skills.

During my time there, I met some incredible people and had some wonderful conversations about the different ways we viewed the world. One of my regular conversation partners brought an aged copy of the King James Bible in English she’d found on her grandfather’s bookshelf of Buddhist texts. She asked if I would be willing to read through it with her, and I was. We only made it about nine or ten chapters into Genesis, but every single time we met, the conversation covered definitions of obsolete words, archaic grammar rules, ancient Babylonian mythology, and our individual views on what we were reading. It was an intelligent, respectful trading of thoughts and ideas across gender, age, and cultural gaps.

Japan--MartinThese days, I feel this type of enlightening conversation is lost in the constant stream of shouting matches dominating social media every other week. Language isn’t about who can yell louder and longer than their opponent. It’s about communion, the coming together to share both commonalities and differences.

Too often, people become caught up in “right vs. wrong” or “me vs. you” debates that divide rather than bring together. I know in my own heart, I am guilty of wanting to be proven “correct” rather than sitting down and conversing with a friend about a topic of mutual passion. I’m striving to change this about myself so I can better engage with and understand the world around me.

I can say with certainty my trip changed my life for the better. My eyes have seen the community, love, and tolerance that are possible when two people treat each other with respect and sincerity.

Tell us about your experiences sharing the English language with someone from a different culture in the comments below.

Simon Ortiz: Real Writing

rdurborowRobert Durborow
Student Advisor, 2014-2016
Pi Omega Chapter
Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY

My first impression of Simon Ortiz at the 2015 Sigma Tau Delta Annual Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, can be summed up in a single word: real. What I mean is the man is genuine, has an opinion and character, and shows these qualities in what he writes, how he lives, and how he interacts with others, particularly in the literary field. He is real, and so is his writing.

I was honored to host Mr. Ortiz for the aforementioned event, and so had the opportunity to spend significant time with him. It was an absolute honor and privilege. Simon refers to himself and his people as “indigenous people,” rather than “Native American” or “Indian,” both somewhat derogatory appellations. What Simon means in using the term indigenous is simply that his people were already here when the rest of the world arrived. The word is real, and describes exactly who and what Simon and his people are. Perhaps you begin to understand why, like Simon, I choose my descriptive word very carefully and call him real.

Simon’s writing is no less real than the writer himself. His poetry and short stories speak in honest words about actual situations and experiences. The Common Reader for this year’s Sigma Tau Delta convention, From Sand Creek, is a book of Simon’s poetry which examines the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. As Simon read from and discussed these poems, his quiet, powerful words filled the vast ballroom in such a powerful manner, every ear listened with eager intent. I have been to many entertaining literary events, but never one quite as engaging and meaningful as Simon’s. The ring of truth in his carefully composed verse is completely inescapable and cannot help but change the reader . . . or the listener. He can lay you bare to the bone and sew you up in the next sentence. That takes rather significant writing skill.

barbara.gardner@cherokee.k12.ga.us

Simon Ortiz and Robert Durborow

Simon did not speak too much about his writing process, except to say that all of his writing derives from life experience and his personal culture. His reading and address, even his answers to audience questions, were carefully considered and well spoken. “Words have power,” he said, “use them on purpose and use them wisely.” These few syllables, so carefully crafted, have great power and it is nigh on impossible to dispute them.

Simon delivered his address and reading simultaneously and so seamlessly I could not distinguish between the address and his poetry and short stories. What this shows me, as a writer, is that Simon is always in the story (or poem). “I write to tell people what I know,” Simon told me at his book signing, “I tell stories, and there are always new ones.” I can think of no better reason to write. Simon agrees. He told me that some people write to entertain or for fun, but he is not one of those. Simon writes because he has something important to say that people need to hear. That is why I write as well. No wonder we got on so well.

The theme of this year’s Sigma Tau Delta convention was “Borderlands and Enchantments.” Simon Ortiz comes from The Land of Enchantment, and knows a thing or two about borders, physical, philosophical, and political. Simon bridges those borders through the written word, predominately through poetry. His words draw two very different worlds closer together, have done so for decades, and promise to continue the journey for some time to come. Would that we could all write in such an utterly real fashion. The world would become the better place Simon and I believe it can be.


Sigma Tau Delta 2016 Convention, March 2-5, Minneapolis, MN
Featured Speakers

 

To Facebook, or Not To Facebook…

Kaitlynn HelmKaitlynn Helm
Chi Theta Chapter
West Texas A&M University
Canyon, TX

The Chi Theta Chapter at West Texas A&M University has adopted social media as our primary means of communication among members. However, we have also begun to utilize our Facebook page in ways that are mutually beneficial to active members and those outside the chapter. Our page facilitates event information, important chapter and international announcements/reminders, and serves as a space to share photos from events, volunteer projects, and socials. We also use the ‘Notes’ function, which allows easy access to the Constitution and other relevant information.

English Department Forecast for the Week

English Department Forecast for the Week

Our page posts English related articles and engaging memes for the enjoyment of members and fellow English lovers alike. My favorite function of our page is the “English Department Forecast for the Week.” This weekly forecast is a hub of information for the entire English Department—times, dates, and locations for all department related events in one place. This function also increases our chapter’s positive image in the English Department and around campus and illustrates our steadfast dedication and support for all things English on campus and in the community.

All Sigma Tau Delta officers are admins (with the President as chief admin) and all are expected to contribute when they can. I absolutely prefer a Facebook Page to a Facebook Group or Profile because of how much more accessible and inclusive it is. Making our page helpful, engaging, and relevant to a wide audience has been a learning process. Increasing our audience to those outside our chapter has also increased our visibility on campus and in the community. For example: When we go out into the community to volunteer we help raise awareness for a cause, simultaneously promoting our own chapter’s dedication to community service.

wtamublog1Some key factors in running a successful page are: posting frequently, sharing the page and inviting others to like the page to increase visibility, and keeping the language lively and semi-formal. Keeping the page active and current can be time consuming, but is a wonderful way to keep members and the community up to date with chapter activities. There are many little things we do to make our page more effective: manage tabs, customize the URL, schedule posts, create photo albums, assign category and subcategory tags, and update general and page information settings. We are still learning what’s effective and what’s not—but Facebook has great tools to calculate that too. The “Insights” tab provides excellent feedback. I highly recommend navigating carefully through this feature to get the most out of your page.

wtamublog3

Facebook Insights

We haven’t looked into any other social media outlets yet, but it’s something to consider down the road… For now, Facebook’s fast, free, and easy to manage medium serves us well, and we hope to continue the momentum our page has gained.

We invite you to check out our Facebook page (or even to message us with some tips of your own). You can find us by following this link: https://www.facebook.com/WTAMUSigmaTauDelta

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