You know when you were a kid in school and your teacher would present you with…lets say a math problem. And your teacher would inform you how to find the area of a square and how to square root problems and find angles and such. And then you would say to yourself, “when am I ever going to use this?” But that summer your family needed to re-tile the kitchen and you found yourself finding the area of a square, etc., etc. because you were the one in your family who knew how to do such things. Then a few years later your teacher would explain to you how to find x, and figure out what sine and cosine and tangent were, and how to graph a function, and you just sat there like, “okay, seriously, I stuck with you during areas and whatnot, but unless I become an engineer, or a math teacher, when am I ever going to use this in real life?”
And that time you were right. You perused your degree in journalism, or theater, or fashion, or English, and you never found the need for that retarded graphing calculator that cost so much money and took up so much room in your clean, neat, organized desk drawer. And you were angry. Angry for wasting your time listening to a math teacher who clearly had no idea what he was doing and you left the class knowing about as much as you did going into it? No? Was that just me?
Well I am at a point in my life where I have come to such a situation, yet again, only this time instead of a math class, I am sitting twice a week in a linguistics class. Every Tuesday from 3:30-4:45 I sit and listen to my professor inform us about the study of the English language (which, I may point out, English is not my professors first language. But that is besides the point). And then Thursdays from 5:00-6:15 I get to listed to my T.A., who thinks he knows just about everything about every single language, inform me that I am doing problems wrong and that “linguistics is fun! Let’s do another problem so I can embarrass you!”
Now like I said, linguistics is the study of language. I have been in this class for just over a month, and I still have no idea why this is mandatory for my degree. I mean, I know I am going to be teaching English to students, but you would think my time would be better spent learning etymology and the root of words, where they come from, what they mean. You know, useful stuff. Not this crap we are suffering through in linguistics. You see the first thing thrown at you in linguistics is a whole new alphabet. Yes, we now have to learn the IPA (international phonetics alphabet) and surprise! You now have 12 or 14 (I can’t be bothered to go look) vowels instead of the usual a-e-i-o-u. Oh and to add to all of that, the vowels are pronounced differently that we say them. “a” becomes the “o” sound heard in “pot” and the “a” sound heard in “bat. “e” becomes the “ai” sound heard in “bait” while “i” becomes the “ee” sound heard in “beet.” “o” becomes the “oa” sound heard in “boat” and finally “u” becomes the “oo” sound heard in “boot.” I should probably mention that there is no capitalization in the IPA alphabet.
Confusing, no? And that is just for half the vowels, not even touching on the consonants. This is just one way I dislike linguistics. Today we had a quiz, and it was during this quiz that I actually figured out how to do one of the problems I skipped on my homework assignment. Keeping in mind that this class is totally ridiculous, here is a sample problem from my homework that was featured on my quiz.
Instructions: Translate the following phonetic transcriptions to the corresponding English sentences.
So here is how we would solve this.
Step 1. Translate it into the literal phonetical sentence, which would then appear as:
Step 2. Break it down into a sentence that sort of begins to make sense:
delawer iz bitween nooyorc and washingtan deesee and cloas tao hiladelphia.
Step 3. Translate it into an actual English sentence.
Delaware is between New York and Washington D.C. and close to Philadelphia.
Step 4. Pop a few pills because you have about six or so more of these.
Now that I know how to actually do the problem, it seems sort of fun. I still can not figure out the first one on the homework, but seeing as I already turned it in, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot I can do about it now. We sort of learned how to do this in class and then it was on the quiz I took today, which is where I actually figured out how to do it, seeing as it is not a good idea to leave things blank on a quiz.
But as “fun” (read: sarcasm) as that seems, I still have yet to figure out the point of this class. What do I care if a honey bee can do a dance to point towards pollen? What do I care that animals have different warning calls for danger? What do I care that an ape can supposedly learn sign language? Okay, that one is actually kind of cool, though I am only halfway convinced that an ape can fully learn sign language. And back to the question that still haunts me, years out of high school, when am I ever going to use this in real life?
Please, someone let me know.