Eat, Pray, Love

This memoir has garnered mixed reviews lately, with most people – especially women – either loving or hating it.  I must admit that I fall into the loving it category, though I can realize that this story is probably more accessible to a more introverted personality than to an extroverted personality.  Since I am definitely an introvert, I love her tale and the thoughts it provokes.

I found that this book is one to be savored.  I first read it over the course of an entire summer, an impossibly long time for me since I love to read novels in a day.  Elizabeth Gilbert’s prose captured my thoughts and imagination and really made me think.  Her use of words and images invited the reader into her thoughts and her world.  Gilbert’s language was accessible, imaginative yet understandable.  I loved that she told her story in a series of short stories, giving the novel structure while highlighting only the important moments in her life.  This structure eliminated long transitional passages, something I appreciated.  Gilbert wrote an engaging and well-written novel that is a pleasant read.

While some critics complain that Gilbert ran away, I think that she did what she had to do to pursue happiness.  I can relate, which is perhaps why I love this novel so much.  The way that she approaches her life, her thoughts themselves, mimic my own though I do not have the same opportunities that she does.  While Gilbert lived a life abroad for a year to learn about herself, this is not always possible.  However, I don’t think that this fact should negate the book’s overall thoughts and lessons learned.  People should give this book a fair read before passing judgment.  Let it sit and soak into the mind.  While rereading it quickly, I was more turned off to it.  It was too much, too deep to enjoy on a surface level.  I think that the movie encountered the same problem – too much, too quickly.  Give this book some time, absorb it slowly – it’s worth the effort.  Eat, Pray, Love is a spectacular read when given the chance.

 

The importance of being flexible

At the moment, I am in the middle of a six-month teaching English as a second language stint in China.  While it has certainly been an interesting experience, living in China does have its moments, especially when speaking English with the Chinese.

The Chinese method of teaching involves a lot of wrote memorization.  This means that for every subject, including English, students memorize a set of responses for given questions.   While this may work for science and math, it leads to stiff formal English that doesn’t sound natural at all.

For example, this is a standard (by which I mean literally everyone who speaks English says it) greeting in China.

“Hello, how are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks.  And you?”

While this is by no means incorrect, it is certainly formal.  Native speakers of English have many different ways of saying hello, many ways of asking how are you, and many ways of responding to that question.  “Hi”, “Wazzup!”, “What’s up”, “Yo”, and “Good morning!” are just a few examples of the phrases native speakers use with ease.  It is quite strange to hear this formal exchange constantly – from my students, from people on the street, from my colleagues.  It’s everywhere!  There is no flexibility and change.

Aside from the fact that this exchange is very formal, it is memorized.  It is the only way that the Chinese know how to say hello.  They literally freeze and can’t speak when faced with any variation of the phrases they have memorized.  And this is what frustrates me the most.  Language is very fluid and flexible.  Words have many connotations beyond their denotation.  Slang enters and exits any language quite quickly and constantly changes.  Students of any language must be willing to be flexible and learn as they go.  Learning a language requires speaking and trying and even making mistakes so that native speakers can correct the mistakes.  Wrote memorization doesn’t actually help anyone speak and interact with native speakers.  It may help when reading texts, but it doesn’t help spoken communication.

So to sum it up, it is important to be flexible when speaking a language.  Flexibility is key, especially when two people don’t know the language at the same level.  Sometimes you must describe something when you forget a word.  Sometimes you must describe something in order to explain it to someone who doesn’t know that word.  Slang influences and changes everyday communication.  The reasons are nearly endless… but be flexible!  Don’t just memorize a language to get a good grade on an exam.  Engage with it!  Interact with it!  Explore its nuances and intricacies!  Oh the joy of flexibility – it brings a language to life, and a rich life at that!

Revamp

After much consideration, I have decided how to revamp this blog!  I will be posting three times a week – on my Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Mondays, I will post a book review.  This will just be my thoughts and impressions about whatever I happen to be reading!

On Wednesdays I will write about the English language and/or writing.  This part is a little un-thought-through still, so please be patient while I sort it all out!

Fridays will be a free day for me to write about whatever I want.  Books, writing, photography, culture, travel, music, movies, you name it!  If you have anything you would like me to talk about, feel free to leave a suggestion!

This format should both give this blog some much-needed structure and give me an outlet for all things non-China related.  I’m pretty pumped!  Let me know what you think!  Oh and this will officially start no later than Wednesday.  I have just finished a book, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to write a review tonight.  Maybe I’ll be able to post it by tomorrow.