Tuesday, October 19, 2010

LANGUAGE, PERCEPTION and MERCURY (& Ms Merkel's declaration).

“Language is the dress of thought” wrote Samuel Johnson back in 18th century England. Languages, national, international, ancient, modern, written, spoken, technical, speciality, and even slang, how they evolved, how they are written, how so much diversity exists - all of this is a constant source of wonder. Accents, side-kicks of language, add an extra layer of fascination.

All these, in astrology, are ruled by planet Mercury. Astrology is a language in itself of course, with its own vocabulary capable of confusing "outsiders", as well as the occasional "insider". The computer and the internet have their own technical language, better known as "jargon", which confused me no end when I began writing this blog, even though I'd been using a computer for years.

More important than language itself, or accents, is nuance of understanding or misunderstanding arising between people, even when using the same language in the same accent.


Here's where astrology, as well as life-experience, plays its part, with particular emphasis on Mercury's natal position. As Anais Nin wrote:We don't see things as they are. We see them as we are. I'd paraphrase that and say that we don't always perceive words, phrases and concepts as they are commonly defined, but as we are, via our uncommon natal charts.

Sanderson Beck has this to say on his website Astrology Time Patterns: Mercury:
Mercury and the mind are like a great lens or focus device; it is an instrument we use to focus our awareness. The soul is the true experiencer of the consciousness, but our direction and consequent awareness depends on how and where we focus the mind. The mind is tremendously powerful; how we use it is up to us.
There's a list of interpretations for Mercury in the 12 zodiac signs, and Mercury the 12 houses at the above link.

Just this week the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel had something to say about language, and the learning of it by immigrants to her country. For anyone intending to spend their lives in a country where the language spoken isn't that they learned as a child, it would seem to be a "given" that they'd do everything possible to learn the native language fairly soon - for ease of everyday requirements: shopping, education, news etc. Some language transitions, though, will be easier to manage than others. I suspect that Turkish to German (the one Ms Merkel referred to) might pose more difficulties than some others. Turkish President Abdullah Gul, went too far in my opinion - in a weekend interview, when urging the Turkish community in Germany to master the language he stated: "That is why I tell them at every opportunity that they should learn German, and speak it fluently and without an accent." Without an accent!? That is a tall order, almost impossible for a person not born in Germany to comply with!

Being a comparative newcomer to the USA (6 years this month) I still sound like a foreigner here. My accent hasn't changed, as far as I'm aware, nor will it, and to my mind nor should it. Good thing I didn't marry a German then!


Astrology Unboxed said...

Ah Accents! Something I know a little bit about. Something that used to bother me a lot when I was younger and now makes for an interesting conversation opener for me.
People are always commenting on my accent, wondering where it comes from. They make wild guesses, but never guess it right.
When I tell them, the immediate response is "but you don't sound like it!"
And in fact I don't. I grew up in Brazil from a French mother and an American father who both wanted to preserve their cultural roots. Therefore, from a very young age, I had to speak 3 languages at the same time (French, English and Portuguese)and ended up creating my own accent.
It certainly made for some interesting mis and understandings growing up, as well as mental gymnastics. I believe it spurred my fascination with linguistics, nuances and the links between reality, perception of reality and language.
As for the German/Turkish debate, it seems to present itself as the opposite of what happened in the USA in the 19th century where immigrants were encouraged to assimilate as fast as they could. As a result, the second generation and sometimes even the first generation did not learn the native language of their parents.
The bigger question for immigrants and their kinds is how to learn to navigate between the two cultures and how this affect their perception of the world.

Twilight said...

Astrology Unboxed ~~~ Hi Fanienne:

Oh my! Yes, you have a very good grasp on the topic at hand. Your mental gymnastics must have been agile indeed to master 3 languages.

My mental aptitude is towards language rather than mathematics, but never having lived in a non-English speaking environment for more than a few weeks, I haven't had the need or incentive to really become fluent beyond schoolday French and Latin (can't really be fluent in Latin, but I enjoyed the learning of it).

It's a tricky problem for immigrants these days, moving to countries where a different language is spoken. My own leaning would be to learn as much as I could before I actually moved, but all immigrants do not have that opportunity until they actually reach their destination. So for a period they must speak in their mother tongue - then it'll become all too easy to avoid learning the new language....Maybe the written language is very different too - not sure about Turkish, but in the case of people from Pakistan and other mid-east countries their written language is so totally different from ours that they have a double hurdle to negotiate.

I can see both sides of the problem.

As you say, navigation between very different cultures is almost a bigger hurdle than the language - which at least is "a fixed target", whereas the culture....well....I have still a few hurdles to clear on that score myself.

Lisa John said...
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Wisewebwoman said...

I see you're hit by the spambot club too, T!
They must be perfecting their wordcatchas or hiring new gremlins.
Difficult thing this whole approach to immigrants and it is far more of a challenge for older people to accomplish the transition to a new language.
I was always impressed with the way one Portuguese family did it. 4 generations and once they got off the boat speaking Portuguese was forbidden for a whole year. It worked.
I think one has to embrace the new life offered by the host country, otherwise what is the point of emigrating? One can't be part of the community at all and it encourages ghettoes.
Having said that, I am completely astonished at the ethnic diversity of the grandgirl's friends. This is the generation that has absolutely no perception of colour, religion or race and they will change the world.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ I doubt there's one rule to fit all in the immigration/language issue.

In the particular example of immigrants in Germany from Turkey, most of the original immigrants were invited in as guest workers after World War2, I understand, to help re-build the country.
Presumably the original immigrants and their offspring have by now been absorbed into the German way of life. If not, it could easily be the fault of the German people for not welcoming them and their descendants as "equals". I don't know details, and shouldn't judge - but it's a two-way street needing cooperation from both sides.

I hope you're correct about coming generations being different with potential to change the world. If they aren't and they don't -
"Bye bye world!"

Astrology Unboxed said...

@ Wisewebwoman:

I would like to comment on your question "what is the point of migrating" and learning the language of the host country.My observation comes from my involvement with the Brazilian community. But I believe this to be true for the Latino community in general and maybe some other nationalities.
I think the improvement on the means of transportation has changed the goal and type of migration. In the 19th century and until a couple of decades ago, migrating was a huge enterprise. It took months by boat or if you migrated by air, airfare was expensive. So pretty much it was a one time deal. Now it is very easy and cheap to buy an airplane ticket and go back home. Which in turn has made easy to go back to one's country of origin. Therefore, the focus of migration has changed. Instead of creating a new life in a different country because you did not have the means to go back and forth, it is now to come to the USA, make money, invest the money saved in the country of origin and go back. As a consequence of this "short" term perspective, the need for learning the host country's language is reduced to the essential of getting a job, housing, food and transportation. They work as much as possible, with little down time, save as much as possible and go back. The need to adapt is simply not present since, their goal is to stay for a short period of time. Adapting to the costumes of the new country and becoming fluent in English is often considered a waste of time, something that takes away from work time since most jobs they are hired for do not require a deep command of English.
The real problem of adaptation and language learning start when the immigrant realizes that he will not go back due to, more often than not, to getting married to an American and having kids in this country.