I lost track of this blog a while ago. It seems that once my own research ended and I started working for an organization, I couldn’t really share as much.
My life is changing again and I’m off to the next great adventure. I’m heading to Edmonton to work as a research analyst. It’s going to be a big city again, which I love. But I will be leaving the Yukon, which I also love. So I’m feeling a bit torn.
Adventures start with the unknown. I don’t really know Edmonton, I don’t really know anyone in Edmonton. It’s a big change. Everyone I love will be far away from me. I’m overflowing with emotions; excitement, sadness, anxiety, pride.
Suddenly I have a choice of which internet service provider I use, and I don’t have to use Bell for my iPhone anymore. I can go from 3G to 4G, and I don’t have to spend a fortune on a bag of flour or worry that the strawberries I buy today will go mouldy tomorrow. My cost of living will go down exponentially.
Everyday I will sit and work in a building that is taller than any building currently standing in the Yukon. I will fall asleep to streetcars and city sounds and meet new people. It will be dark at night and light during the day. City life sounds really exotic after a few years in the North.
Was I just a southerner seeking a Yukon adventure? No. This is my home. I love the hiking trails behind my house. I love going to Starbucks in the morning and knowing everyone there. My family is here. My friends are here. The Yukon is the first place I ever lived by myself. It’s where I bought my first car, and finished school and got my first real job. The Yukon is where I was first published. I grew up here.
So in one week, I will take my car and a moving truck and venture out into the unknown, on highways I have never driven and leave behind everything and everyone I know. So ends the Yukon chapter.
Working in the non-profit world you get to learn a lot of jargon. I recently spoke with an employee at a funding agency that absolutely can’t stand jargon. She told me that people just use it to sound smart and show that they are working on the most up-to-date topics.
Literacy has become quite the jargoned word this year. Especially with the invention of the term ‘physical literacy’ which means moving with competence and confidence in a wide variety of activities. Of course this could also be described as being active, but that sure doesn’t sound as smart. Literacy used to imply ability to read and write, but now includes oral skills and computer skills. Literacy has actually come to denote the ability to keep with the status quo in whichever area is aforementioned. For Example health Literacy, workplace literacy, computer literacy etc. I likely am not far off in foreseeing the inventions of the terms sexual literacy, techno literacy and my personal favourite, vino literacy.
I live in the academic world of jargon. ‘Food security’ tends to be a term that comes up all the time. Food Security is achieved when all people in a community have access to safe and healthy foods. But when people are talking about food security, they are actually talking about food INsecurity. This means that conversations tend to be problem oriented not solution-based. But, in the non-profit world it’s important to put a positive spin on the topic.
Jargon seems to be everywhere, and people pretend to understand it, even when they don’t. I recently attended a conference where a presenter stood up and pitched a partnership opportunity. When he sat down, I had no idea what the topic for the project was, that he was seeking partners and I had no clear understanding of what it had to do with the rest of the conference. This is because I haven’t been trained in the scientific jargon that he spilled out. It was at that moment that I wished for a world where everyone stated their intentions in plain terms.
“I have this great idea and money to carry it out, but I need help”. It’s so easy.
Of course, in a world of academics, people don’t want to say that they don’t understand, losing face is a very bad thing. This is where people start using terms they don’t understand just to be in with the in-crowd. And when people start using the term in the wrong way, it loses it’s meaning. Suddenly Food Security refers to the opposite of what it was intended to, and literacy isn’t about the ability to read and write.
I’m all about the evolution of language, but I’m also a fan of catering to the lowest common denominator. At least when it comes to presentations and partnership development. Let’s find the simplest way to outline our intentions which will likely increase the number of people willing to work with you. This is because more people will actually understand what you are saying instead of partnering with you just because they think you’re smart. And if you really are that smart, you don’t need to go around trying to prove it to everyone else. Trust me, it’ll come out in you’re excellent presentation and communication skills.
In 2003, a literacy survey was done accross Canada. Yukon shows to have some of the best literacy rates of the Country at 67%. The problem is, this survey was only conducted in Whitehorse and excluded all Yukon communities.
The Yukon Learn Society has ads posted up all over town that 1/5 Canadians can’t read this ad, and in some Yukon Communities, it’s 2/5. They also had to close their computer lab last year due lack of funding, and recently re-opened it for classes this winter.
Illiteracy is one of those issues that rarely gets any attention when it comes to adults.
We complain about the rate of poverty and homelessness, but our government is not taking the necessary steps to aid it, or perhaps putting the money in the right places.
How can someone apply for a job if they cannot read the newspaper they are advertised in? The government can continue to put money into wage subsidies and increase the numbers of jobs, but that’s not helping the people that dropped out of school and haven’t learned to read or can’t figure out how to use a computer.
I wish adult literacy, or literacy in general was in the platform of one of our political parties. Accurate testing in ALL Yukon Communities would be an excellent use of the governments funds. Then we could see exactly where more programming and help needs to be offered.
When I was in high school in Ontario the Mike Harris government launched the grade 10 literacy test. At the time I thought it was ridiculous, what kid wants to sit and be tested on basic reading, writing, math and problem solving skills? In retrospect, I think its a great idea.
I’ve asked about a standardized literacy testing in Yukon and I’ve been assured that one is not conducted in the schools on a yearly basis for any grade at this time. I think that testing our childrens literacy rates is an excellent way to test the education system.
The 2003 survey results link is below
Lately I’ve been super stressed out. It’s not my job- I love my job. It’s not really any one thing in particular it’s just a bunch of small things that make me really angry. Like the pizza guy knocks on the garage door, c’mon! Or my friend bails last minute which is pretty sleazy but has a totally good reason. Even my cat is making me angry. He greeted me with a loud meow when I walked in the door the other day and I felt like screaming at him to leave me alone. I feel like a rebellious angry teenager all over again. I know what you’re thinking and I’m way too young for menopause. It’s been a good month of this anger and I still can’t figure it out.
Doesn’t it always happen that when you have a million things to do you end up getting sick. I had to take 3 days off work this week thank you to Strep throat. It came on so suddenly that one afternoon my throat was dry and that same night I was having problems breathing.
So the doctor said I was contagious and had to stay home and I ended up missing this great workshop for my job which I had spent the last month preparing for. It was such a let down. But, I can’t represent a company that focuses on health and wellness when I’m ill. It just seems wrong.
The best and worst part of being sick is the disgusting taste at the back of my throat. It makes everything taste nasty so I don’t really feel like eating. The upside of that is I’ve lost 2 lbs in three days. It makes me feel slightly better about laying around in my pyjamas watching 3 seasons of weeds.
It seems when you’re sick everyone has some great advice for you. Imagine working in the field of health research. I skyped into a meeting and I was told exactly which vitamins I should take, natural healing methods and foods to avoid. It was actually an interesting topic since some of the advice contradicted others. My facebook had comments from family and friends telling me to ‘gargle salt water’ and do a nasal cleanse. Some people think I should eat while others think that the bad taste is a sign that I should avoid food. All hot liquids, just water, I heard it all.
None of it is working. Not even the antibiotics. I’m coughing now when I wasn’t before and my energy level is way down. I’m giving it one more day before I return to the doctor. I don’t think I can stand the nasty taste in my mouth much longer. So now I’m angry at the doctor and at the antibiotics and everyone who suggested something that didn’t work. Not really mad, just sick of it.
Over the weekend I went out for dinner solo. I had to make a business call and since I was alone, I decided to do it then.
While I was talking the waitress came up to me and started telling me the specials and talking over my call. I thought she was so rude that I became angry and ended up not tipping very well.
I know that when cellphones were first invented people had to basically yell into them to be understood. This is what started the social norm of not talking on your phone in a restaurant. But now, it’s no different than speaking to the person beside you.
Of course it’s still rude to talk on the phone if you’re with other people, but I was alone.
I guess it angered me that the waitress didn’t even say ‘excuse me’ before she started talking. Would she just had walked up and started talking over our conversation if the person was there beside me? Perhaps she thought I was being rude and intentionally decided to demand my attention.
Has the social norm changed? Or is it still inappropriate to talk on your phone in a restaurant?
In my third year of my undergrad we had a debate in Field Linguistics class. The debate seperated the decriptivists and the prescriptivists. At the time, I was a hard core descriptivist. I remember saying things like “embrace the change! English has been adapting since it’s creation, it’s not going to stop because you say so!” I was so naive.
Is it possible that as I have grown (slightly) older and observed English as a changing language, I’ve actually changed my mind?
Henry Fowler was a hard-core prescriptivist and I remember laughing when I read his speeches on how “commoners are poisoning the English language”.
Now, as a young adult, I posit that teenagers of today are poisoning the English language.
In their defense, it’s really not their fault, it’s the age we live in.
In the age of technology the goal is to get the message accross in the shortest possible way. In text form, you have 140 characters to speak your mind. This has given birth to all sorts of new words, acronyms and substitutes.
In September I asked a group of 18 year old first year university students what the word ‘fax’ stood for. They told me it was the old school way to send an email. Not a single one of them knew the word facsimile. I actually had to look up the spelling.
But ask them what LMAO stood for and every single hand in the room was up.
My supervising professor showed me some of the papers he had received this year. Text-Shorthand was present throughout. Very intelligent students were mispelling and misusing the language and as a result getting worse grades than they may have deserved. Most had never heard of MLA, APA or Chicago style way of citing your sources.
The most interesting part of all of it was switching between a room of young university students to an elderly professor or even my grandmother. The dynamic of the conversation was completely different. I think this is beacause their purpose for conversation is completely different. This age group doesn’t speak for the sake of speaking and doesn’t have a goal of getting the message accross in the shortest possible way. It’s also not about speaking the most or divulging as much information about yourself as possible. Instead the goal of these speakers is to gain knowledge from you. Conversation is like a dance. Each participant listens to the other and it flows elegantly. I always leave these conversations feeling that we’ve both had equal opportunity to speak.
So why is there such a difference between our elderly English speakers and our young English speakers?
I think first we have to characterize the conversationalists of the generation between them. Its a large age group of people who hit the teenage years before the development of text messaging. I am on the tail end of this group.
Older people hate the way I speak. When quoting others, I substitute the word ‘like’ for ‘says’. As a result I sound like (or similar to) a valley girl when I am recounting a conversation.
In this age group we speak with the goal of talking about ourselves and projecting our image rather than listening to others or gaining knowledge from them. People of my generation are taught to challenge their teachers. You are your job. Ask anyone in this age group who they are. They will give you their job title.
Ask a teenager who they are. You will get a long answer describing their world views and personality. Where did the change come from?
The change comes from the change in parenting styles. These teenagers are raised with parents that put their children before their work. They were taught that their opinions mattered and that children are no longer to be seen and not heard. As a result, every whimsicle thought is important, so it must be posted on facebook or twitter for everyone to see.
Technology jumped in and harbored these changes.
The teen speaking population feel that every little thing they have to say is important, as a result they don’t always listen to what is being said to them. But it’s like that way for everyone. If you are waiting to say something you feel is important, you aren’t really listening to what everyone else is saying.
So here lies the problem. I will now examine the cliche that the children (in this case teenagers) are our future.
In a matter of years, the teenagers of today will be here and the elderly speakers will not. Languages change as the users change, as our elderly speakers die so will the way in which they use our language. Therefore it is likely that in 80 years, when the teens of today are elderly, text acronyms and substitutes are an accepted use in formal writing.
We can only hope that the shift in generations continues to work like a swinging pendulum and that eventually, conversation becomes an art again.
So six years of studying are finally over and now I have my M.A. I went back to Ontario in September to defend my thesis and was able to visit my family at the same time. This picture was taken on campus and I found the quote inspiring. It was the first week of classes so campus was extremely busy. I felt lost. A lot had changed in two years.
I can’t even articulate how nervous I was the day I walked into the great hall and stood before a large group to present my research findings. It was incredible seeing my name on the board with my thesis the title. A group of respected professors were holding copies of my thesis. My legs started to shake. I took a deep breath pulled out my cellphone and started to talk about text messaging.
Afterwards, my supervising professor said he had no idea I was nervous. He said that he has always enjoyed my papers and presentations. Then he advised me to get my grad photos done. I was thrilled.
So when this came in the mail a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t really surprised. But I was ecstatic. I wish I could be there for my graduation, but there’s just no way. Flying back to Ontario twice in two months seems silly. With a new niece or nephew due in Ontario the next month, I rather go home for Christmas to meet them.
So I came back to Whitehorse and missed my Convocation on October 29th. My Niece was born on October 30th and I celebrated my graduation with friends up here in November.
It was really great to bring such a wide variety of people together. They all support me in very different ways. There were times I wanted to give up, and you were there for me. So I want to thank all of you who supported me and helped me to get where I am today. Whether it was participating in my surveys, promoting them, building my ‘site or just continuing to put up with me when I was stressed out and overwhelmed, thank you.
Soon after I finished my M.A, I started a new job. It’s a small research centre here in Whitehorse with some great opportunities for me.
I went back to Ontario for Christmas and met my new little Niece, my Nephew was very excited that I was visiting again so soon.
I stopped in Edmonton on the way down and stayed with my Cousin overnight. I enjoyed a shopping spree at the West- Edmonton Mall. It took us 8.5 hours, but we walked the entire thing!
It was a great Vacation in all, but I’m happy to be home and start to enjoy what feels like a new beginning!