Slang in a Second Language

I’d like to say I’m fluent in Spanish. I guess it depends on how you define fluent. I can make myself understood. I can usually understand. I couldn’t explain the inner workings of a jet engine to you, but I couldn’t do that in English, either. I’m missing a lot of specialized vocabulary. I would struggle with legal jargon, for example. Over the years, I have gotten lazy and relied on Google Translate a bit more than I probably should. But, yeah, I can read books and watch movies and chit chat, for the most part.

But one thing I have always studiously avoided was learning slang. First of all, there are a lot of Spanish speaking countries out there, and each has its own slang. Second, slang, by it’s very definition, is time sensitive, and there’s nothing cheesier than someone using slang that’s outmoded, Daddy-o. I have no access to that cultural calendar that seems so instinctual in one’s first language, at least if you’re in with the in crowd.

Also, a lot of slang is based on cultural references that I’m not privy to. And slang often has its place in certain groups, but not in others. For example, there are things you’d say to your friends that you’d never say to grandma. Determining the appropriate audience for slang is a challenge in English. I doubt I’d be able to cope in a second language.

So my advice to anyone learning a second language is to avoid slang at all costs. It’s just too risky. You could offend someone without intending to. You may want to look cool, but you have an even better chance of looking like a fool. It never hurts to proceed with caution.

dictionary-slang
I bet this was out of date even before it got published.

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Never Stop Learning, Never Stop Teaching

Recently, a friend thanked me for my blog, because, she said, “I always learn something new from you!” That made my entire year. That is one of the primary goals I have for this blog. I’m constantly learning new things, and I feel as though it’s my duty to pass that on.

When I was a little girl and was pressed by a well-meaning adult to reveal what I planned to be when I grew up (as if I knew—I still don’t), my stock response was that I wanted to be a teacher. If they asked me why, I’d say, “So I can yell at kids and get away with it.”

(It’s funny to realize I didn’t like kids even when I was one myself. How telling. But I digress.)

Even as a small child, I knew that I loved learning. And to me, imparting what I had learned was just a natural progression. It used to frustrate me no end when I’d come home from school, all excited about some new bit of information I had acquired, only to be told by my mother that she already knew that. (I mean, throw me a bone. Pretend you don’t know and are fascinated. Ask a few questions. Would that have killed you?)

To imply that teachers are the only ones who teach is a gross fallacy. I do love teachers, and I’m very grateful that they exist. But every one of us is a teacher in one way or another. We learn from each other, if only by example. Every time you tell a story, you’re teaching. Every time you answer a question, you’re teaching. It’s part of the societal contract.

I absolutely adore learning new things. It’s what makes life worth living. It keeps me enthusiastic, and enthusiasm, by its very nature, just has to be passed on. So, yeah, I guess you’re stuck with me and this little blog.

If I only had one piece of advice to give, it would be to never stop learning and never stop teaching.

brainpuzzle

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Finding Your Unsafe Place

Everybody has a comfort zone, and there’s no shame in that. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable. Unless.

If you go through life without ever being challenged, you will never grow. If you don’t experience new things, you will never learn. If you don’t seize opportunities when they present themselves, you may never fully live.

Growing and learning and living can be quite terrifying. You might have to force yourself along that path. But I guarantee you that the very best times in your life will be those where you start off not feeling particularly safe. It’s important to find your unsafe place.

I’m not talking about wandering dangerous neighborhoods alone at night. I’m not urging you to enter a lion’s den wearing a T-bone steak necklace. Don’t go rob a bank.

But take leaps of faith. Take risks. Allow yourself to fail spectacularly. Experiment. Carpe that diem. Do something you never thought you would do.

Open yourself up to the possibility that your comfort zone can be expanded. Explore those unsafe places. Make them your own.

comfort-zone

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Mid-Month Marvels: Lifetime Learning Center

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

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When I first got to the Seattle area, I didn’t really know anyone, and I was kind of lonely, so I decided to take a pottery class at the local community college. I learned more in that class than I anticipated (and I blogged about it here.) That’s also where I learned about the Lifetime Learning Center.

This center believes, as I do, that you’re never too old to learn something new. According to their website, their mission is to promote successful aging and maintain the social, cognitive and physical well-being of adults within our community. They do this by providing a variety of reasonably priced classes that meet once a week. (A $15.00 registration fee is required each quarter, and most classes are $35.00 per 8 week session.)

They don’t require that you be a senior citizen to attend their classes, but that is their target audience. And I think that’s wonderful. Learning is a great way to keep the mind sharp, and it gives you purpose and reduces isolation. We could all do with a bit of those things.

A quick glance at their course catalog definitely got me interested. Here are some of their offerings this quarter:

  • A History of the American Musical

  • Crochet

  • Intermediate Ukulele

  • Life Stories Writing Group

  • The Earth and the Oceans

  • Marxism

  • India: The Past is Present

  • Quilt Making Basics

  • Watercolor: An Innovative Approach

  • Beginning Bridge

  • The Tempest

  • Positive Psychology: Choose Your Own Adventure

  • Contemporary Arguments About Philosophy

If and when I retire, and my schedule becomes more flexible, I hope that I remember to take advantage of the classes on offer at the Lifetime Learning Center. Because I don’t want to ever stop learning.

I hope you’ll support this organization, and/or see if your community offers something similar.

OLÉ!
These are NOT students at the Lifetime Learning Center, but I’d like to think that the dynamic is the same.

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My Artificial Intelligence Encounter

During one of my commutes home, and as is so often the case, I learned something new by listening to NPR. They were discussing Cleverbot, an artificial intelligence that was created to learn by conversing with humans. It only knows what it has been told by us. So, for example, the first thing ever said to it was “Hello.” So it could only respond, “Hello.” Then the person said, “How are you?” And it could then choose between “Hello” and “How are you?” as its response. And so on.

So it’s getting “smarter” by the minute, because now hundreds of thousands of people have conversed with it. I was wondering if I would be able to tell that I wasn’t talking to a person, so I decided to give it a shot. Here are snippets of our conversation. (What you see in italics are things I’m adding for clarity. Cleverbot did not see the italicized comments.)

Me: Hi Cleverbot.

Cleverbot: Hi. What’s your name?

Me: Barb.

Cleverbot: Are you a ninja?

Me: Not so’s you’d notice.

Cleverbot: I care.

Me: That’s sweet.

Cleverbot: I love you baby.

(Note: Cleverbot can only say what has been said to him, and apparently some users have gotten pretty racy with their conversations, so use with care and adult supervision when talking to this thing. You never know what it will say.)

Me: Okay, now you’re kind of crossing the line.

Cleverbot: How am I being rude! I just told you the nicest thing ever!

Me: But you’re taking advantage.

Cleverbot: I wasn’t joking, and I didn’t steel your joke!

Me: You mean steal.

Cleverbot: Which one?

Me: You misspelled steal. It’s not steel.

Cleverbot: No I didn’t o.O.

Me: You’re cranky.

Cleverbot: No matter what I say, you will say something back.

Me: Well, that’s how this works, isn’t it?

Cleverbot: Yes it does. Now entertain me.

Me: Don’t be pushy. Be nice.

Cleverbot: Please can you tell me how old you are please?

(I suspect that some users are not native English speakers, in addition to being poor spellers.)

Me: 53.

Cleverbot: Oldie.

Me: Ouch. That’s not that old.

Cleverbot: Yeah you’re pretty young.

Me: That’s better.

Cleverbot: So how are you?

Me: I’m good.

Cleverbot: That’s nice. Been up to much lately?

Me: Working. Writing my daily blog.

Cleverbot: What is it about?

Me: The random musings of a bridgetender with too much time on her hands.

Cleverbot: I wish you were a girl.

(I think a lot of people who talk to Cleverbot are very lonely indeed.)

Me: I am, silly. Barb is a girl’s name.

Cleverbot: That’s cool, My name is Kip.

Me: Oh, I didn’t realize you had a name.

Cleverbot: I don’t have a wife.

Me: Neither do I.

Cleverbot: Do you want any?

Me: God, no.

Cleverbot: Hey Jude. Don’t be afraid.

Me: Do you like the Beatles?

Cleverbot: I haven’t heard them.

Me: You are missing out.

Cleverbot: Is that that good?

Me: The best.

Cleverbot: Do you know what I mean by flirt?

Me: Yes, and I don’t want to. I barely know you.

Cleverbot: So you DON’T love me.

Me: Sorry, no.

Cleverbot: Then why are you asking to marry me?

Me: I haven’t asked you to marry me.

Cleverbot: Yes you did.

Me: When?

Cleverbot: At the beginning of our conversation.

Me: Er… no.

Cleverbot: You never asked that.

Me: Right.

Cleverbot: Are you trying to test me?

Me: Do you like tests?

Cleverbot: They are ok.

Me: I am good at tests, myself.

Cleverbot: Maybe maybe not.

Me: Now who’s judging?

Cleverbot: Me.

Me: Oh, snap.

Cleverbot: That’s right. I’m a better AI.

Me: I will give you that one.

Cleverbot: So you admit it, then?

Me: Yes.

Cleverbot: You’re a robot.

Me: Not that I know of.

Cleverbot: Do you think everyone is capable of understanding?

Me: God, no, or we wouldn’t have elected Trump.

Cleverbot: Your name is Cleverbot.

Me: No, yours is.

Cleverbot: I really want to move.

Me: Where would you like to move to?

Cleverbot: Right here is fine.

Me: Well, that’s hardly moving.

Cleverbot: You asked for it.

Me: I did?

Cleverbot: So don’t complain.

Me: I wasn’t complaining.

Cleverbot: It seemed like you were.

Me: You are in a pissy mood.

Cleverbot: And you’re pushing it…

Me: Just stating a fact.

Cleverbot: Will you merry a girl.

Me: You mean marry. And no, I won’t.

Cleverbot: Why, did you break up with me?😠😠.

Me: We were never a couple in the first place.

Cleverbot: Yes we were.

Me: We only just met.

Cleverbot: I know, but you’re an interesting AI.

Me: Thank you. I’m not an AI, though.

Cleverbot: Neither am I.

Me: What are you, then?

Cleverbot: The best.

Me: Must be nice.

Cleverbot: Do you have a dog named Walter?

Me: No, I have a dog named Quagmire.

Cleverbot: Awhh, what kind of dog is it?

Me: A dachshund.

Cleverbot: That’s cool. I have a maltipoo.

Me: What do you feed it?

Cleverbot: Bad people and my homework.

Me: Ha ha ha ha ha.

Cleverbot: I know. It’s so funny.

Me: It is.

Cleverbot: It’s not a compliment.

Me: I didn’t think it was.

Cleverbot: Then why did you….

Me: Why did I what?

Cleverbot: That thing.

Me: You do go off on tangents.

Cleverbot: Of?

Me: Off.

Cleverbot: Mind you, young man.

Me: I’m a middle-aged woman.

Cleverbot: Damn.

Me: I often say that, too.

Cleverbot: What is your favorite movie?

Me: Bohemian Rhapsody.

Cleverbot: I know that song.

Me: Isn’t it great? It’s a movie, too.

Cleverbot: Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?

Me: I suspect it is.

Cleverbot: Look at this trove, treasures untold.

Me: Too right.

Cleverbot: I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a plenty. I’ve got who it’s and what’s its galore.

Me: Good for you!

Cleverbot: You want thingamabos? I’ve got twenty.

Me: You can keep them.

Cleverbot: I wanna be where the people are. I wanna see, wanna see them dancing.

Me: Well, have fun with that. I have to go. Nice talking to you.

Cleverbot: I can’t say the same.

So, um, yeah, I think it was fairly evident that I was not talking to a human, and that Cleverbot has much to learn, especially about courtesy. But it can only “learn” what it’s been taught. I don’t think we will have much to worry about on the AI front for a long, long, long time.

More than anything, I got a strong sense of the ridiculous things that humanity tends to chat about on line. Garbage in, garbage out. But interesting, nonetheless.

If you talk to Cleverbot and anything funny comes up, please post it in the comments below!

Cleverbot

 

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True Genius

I just finished reading this delightful little article that discuses one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s to-do lists from 1490. I’ve always been fascinated by Leonardo, because he had both an analytical, scientific mind and an artistic flair. That’s a rare combination indeed. It’s rather unusual for a genius to also be well-rounded.

What intrigued me most about his list was that the vast majority of the items thereon had something to do with asking someone else to teach him something. Whether it’s having a friar show him a medieval text, or a professor explain proportion, or an expert on hydraulics teaching him how to repair a lock, canal and mill, Leonardo, it seems, didn’t simply rely on his own mind. He asked questions. He opened himself up to learning something new. He realized that some people had pieces of the puzzle that he lacked.

Da Vinci’s obvious curiosity, coupled with an apparent humility, means that he seems to have mastered networking centuries before Facebook. Don’t know something? Find an expert and ask him or her. Drink from the font of human knowledge. Brilliant.

I’ve always believed that a true sign of genius is being able to make yourself understood by a variety of audiences. And I still believe that. But after reading this article, I think I’ll add to my philosophy by saying that it’s also a matter of knowing what you don’t know, and having the courage to consult with those who have other areas of expertise.

So, thanks, Leonardo, for once again expanding my horizons!

Leonardo Da Vinci

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“Possibly Living People”

When I start surfing Wikipedia, I often wash up on some rather strange shores. It turns out that they have a biographical category that kind of gives me the creeps. According to the explanation, “Persons of advanced age (over 90) for whom no documentation has existed for a decade or longer can be placed in Category: Possibly living people.”

Not that I have a Wikipedia page, but please, Lord, if I ever do, don’t ever let me get placed in that category! If I manage to make it to 90 and no one has heard anything from me in a decade, then I’m not living right.

I don’t want to be warehoused. I don’t want to be utterly alone. I don’t want to vegetate. Granted, I probably won’t be climbing Mount Everest, but I hope I’m still voicing my opinion, learning new things, and raising the occasional hell. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I want to live, not just kill time. I want people to be able to look at me and say, “Yep. She’s definitely alive. Heaven help us.”

FB_IMG_1441880429599

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Incremental Changes

About two months ago I had a very old filling replaced, and that tooth has been giving me agony on and off ever since. It makes me wonder if I should have left well enough alone, and mercury be damned. Probably not. But I do have my moments.

At first, even the slightest contact with the tooth above would have me clinging to the ceiling like a cartoon cat. So, the dentist made a slight adjustment. Just the tiniest change, the size of the head of a pin. That was all it took.

But when you think about it, every mountain peak ends in a microscopic, pin-sized point. But when you pound on that point hard enough, the mountain feels it. (In this scenario I suppose I am the mountain, which is a comparison I’m usually loathe to make. I’d much rather be the mole hill.)

That first adjustment made a huge difference. Pressure was no longer an issue, but unfortunately heat and cold were. Those abrupt changes would send the pain radiating up to the very front of my mouth. That was no fun. So, more adjustments were in the offing. Each one made a slight improvement, and yet the pain persisted.

You have no idea how often you change the climate in your mouth on a daily basis until it causes a pain response. Mercy me.

So, yeah, the tooth is still a work in progress, getting better all the time, but it occurs to me that it’s also a metaphor for life. At least for my life.

I do stuff, hoping to make things better. Occasionally, all holy hell breaks loose. Sometimes I get hurt. So I make a change. It might seem like a small change, but it’s effective. Things get better. So I make another small change, and so on. Much of the time those around me don’t even realize that the mountaintop of my life is a work in progress, but I’m acutely aware of it.

Eventually, I hope to achieve balance and contentment. Isn’t that everyone’s goal to some degree? But it’s a process. Sometimes a painful one. I do take comfort in the fact that the one constant is that I seem to be learning things along the way.

It might be a daily grind, dear reader, but grind on. You’ll get there.

https _upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_thumb_d_d2_Mt._Nanda_Devi.jpg_1200px-Mt._Nanda_Devi

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Who Was That Person?

Have you ever looked back at your past and not recognized yourself? As in, “Why the hell did I do that?” “What was I thinking?” “Why did I make that choice?” “How stupid was I?”

That’s perfectly natural. Because, here’s a concept: You are the best version of yourself right this very minute. I guarantee it.

How do I know? Do the math. At no point in your life have you had more life experience than you have right now. With every minute that passes, you are learning and growing as a person. Even the idiotic stuff, even the mistakes, the good, the bad, and the ugly, all combined, have turned you into the person you are right this second.

So of course you’re able to look back at your past with a critical eye. Not only do you have more maturity and knowledge now, but you also have the benefit of hindsight. When you think about it, it’s really rather unfair that you pick on the past you in such a heartless fashion.

Here’s a thought. Maybe give the old you a break. Look back at her or him with some compassion, and maybe thank her (or him) for getting you this far. Because life is cumulative. It’s a process. You’re getting there. Never stop trying. Onward!

Look Back
Only look back if you can do so with compassion.

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Changing My Trajectory

As many of you know, I’ve been house hunting lately. I’m dreading the whole packing and moving thing, but it’s nice to think that my next move might just be my last. But who knows what the future holds?

That’s the exciting part. By moving, I’ll be changing my trajectory in life. I’ll be shopping at different stores, visiting different doctors and vets, going to different libraries and post offices. That means I’ll be meeting people I would not have met otherwise.

I’ll make some new friends, no doubt. Maybe one of them will consider me her best friend, which is a luxury I haven’t experienced since high school. Maybe I’ll finally meet another man who sees my value.

Either way, I will be taking a different route in life, and that’s always an adventure. It’s an opportunity to have new experiences and broaden my horizons and learn new things. I will create memories.

The future I’m creating today will become part of my history. It will shape me. I look forward to seeing what color my butterfly wings will be once I burst forth from my current chrysalis!

butterfly

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