Discoveries on an #Ecolinguistic Expedition

Let's set out together for exploring our hometown!
Let’s set out together for exploring our hometown!

Friday I considered an ecolinguistic expedition day. I set up an Instagram account (richardlanguage) where I started logging the languages I see around me.

Join me by posting pics of the languages around you and tagging them #ecolinguism!

In this first day, I didn’t go out of my way, but recorded why I saw as I walked along my normal Friday afternoon path to Oromo Table.

Selective focus

Then I realized I missed an opportunity, because I went to lunch at a Korean restaurant. I forgot to record what I saw.

It occurred to me that this oversight reflects an easy tendency. My mind is so selective with the information it takes in, that if the information is not meaningful—or, better, if I don’t make meaning out of the information—I don’t even realize it’s there. I went to the Korean restaurant to have lunch with work colleagues, and I don’t know Korean. So I didn’t notice the Korean.

Most people probably do that all the time. They don’t even notice that different languages surround them all the time. Even as a consummate language geek, I need to be even more conscious of the languages I encounter every day.

On the flip side, I also realized how meaningful it must be for an immigrant to have signs and advertising in their own language. Overseas, English advertisements are fairly common. If I were Oromo in Minnesota, however, an ad in Oromo would pop immediately into focus if it crossed my vision.

Ordinary city with unique composition

Another realization came to me that I normally take for granted. Where do you see instructions in English, Spanish, Hmong, and Somali? This combination must be unique to Minnesota. Just to confirm, I googled that combination of languages, and got multiple Minnesota websites.

Since I examined last time the languages of my birth state, Nebraska, I thought I’d answer this question for Nebraska. What are the most common languages there after English among limited English speakers in the schools (as of 2001 according to this site)? Spanish, Vietnamese, and Nuer (a South Sudanese language). Since then I know that a lot of Iraqi and Iranian immigrants and refugees arrived, which certainly changes the ecolinguistic landscape.

What would an ecolinguistic expedition look like there?

How about your town?

What languages do you see around you? hear around you? Please post them on Instagram and tag them #ecolinguism!

Photo credit: State Library of New South Wales collection via Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

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One thought on “Discoveries on an #Ecolinguistic Expedition

  1. Pingback: Sacrifice your talent for love – Loving Language

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