Wednesday, February 28, 2007

English official language?

Yesterday, I stumbled across an interesting article urging congress to pass a bill making English the official language in the United States.

I have no problem agreeing that English is the most common spoken language in the world. It is the language of commerce, it is the language of the internet. However, I do not think that making English the "official language" of the United States will actually solve any problems.

Last night, I mentioned the article to Melody, and she suggested that English should be a requirement for citizenship, which makes sense. I even agree that immigrants should learn English if they want to find a good job and adjust to American life. I do not think that English should be the official spoken language. As pointed out by Mr. Feulner in his article, most people do already speak English.

English IS currently the most common spoken language, but allow me to point something out: Long ago, Italian was the common tongue, then French. Both of those gave way to something else. Spanish is quickly growing more common. Chinese and Arabic are the two fastest growing languages in the world! That's not good for English.

It's even worse for the majority of Americans. Why? Because Americans are already behind in our language skills and abilities. Why? A number of reasons: 1) we're spoiled. Most people already speak English, so we see no need to learn English.

While I was in France, I can't even begin to tell you the number of Americans who went around crying out, enunciating painfully, "DOooooooo-YOUuuuuu-SPEeeeeeeAK-EeeeeNGLISH?" As though speaking slower and louder would make people understand them better. Want to know a secret? It doesn't. Occasionally, I felt bad for those obviously-misguided Americans, but after they were rude to myself, or to my Portuguese roommate (she spoke with an accent!), I left them to someone else. And inevitably, someone else did eventually help them. Poor souls.

The second reason is we feel other people should learn English. And I agree, immigrants to our country, and even visitors to our country, should be able to speak enough English to get by, and they should try to learn to speak it better.

The third reason Americans don't learn language is we "don't get them," so we don't try to learn them. However, those people I met in France, should have been able to say a simple, "Bonjour," "Merci," "Parlez-vous anglais," and "Excusez-moi," in French. It's called being polite. Just like visitors to our country should speak enough English to get by, we should speak enough Spanish/Chineses/Russian/Portuegese, etc. to get by. I can't even begin to tell you how happy the waiter (who spoke perfect English) was when my Father thanked him in his native French (when he, my Mother and my sister came to visit me). You cannot expect other people to come to your country and speak your language if you will not show them the same consideration.

As for immigrants, most probably speak English, and for those who do not, they probably want to learn. For anyone who has learned/tried to learn a language, it's not easy. It's even harder as an adult. The children of immigrants are in schools, learning to speak English, and oftentimes, they will have to translate for their parents. English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. So, yes, slow down a bit. We talk fast. Correct people politely. It's helpful, trust me.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Paris. The First time.

Three years ago today, Sarah and I stepped into Paris for the first time. The only reason I remember this is because we are in the process of putting together a little proposal for a travel book we want to write. So, for those purposes, I have been writing about the stupid things we did, accidentally of course.

I don't think I'll ever forget that day. When we stepped of the plane, we had to figure out how to
get from the airport, to the train station, and then into Paris itself. I swear we waited in lines for hours, once it was all said and done. Even so, nothing could kill our mood.

But then, we took the train into Paris and had to brave the Metro System. After four long hours of wondering, we finally found our hotel, and then decided to go for a walk.

Truly, we were dressed perfectly appropriately for Paris. Just not for the area were in. Unfortunately, we were completely clueless.

We decided to go take a look at the cemetery that was down the street from us. While we walked, we noticed several men following/staring at us. We ignored them, and went about our business.

Once we arrived at the cemetery, we learned that they wanted to charge us 5 euros or something crazy like that to go in. We opted out, and turned around to head back.

That's when we realized the men were still following us. We ended up turning down a side road in an attempt to get away. In this instance, "side road" means "a road where men wait for the prostitutes they expect to 'service' them." We didn't know that, though.

However, the road, which initially looked very short, and quite optimal for a quick run, seemed to grow longer the further we walked. Men lined up down the road, staring at us. A few of them approached us to ask us questoins.

One man, and I can't remember which language he called to us in, but it must have been English because Sarah responded asked us, "Are you working?"

Sarah, smiling brightly, giddily responded, "Oh no, we're not working. We're students!"

I closed my eyes, wanting to hurt her. "Wrong kind of working," I muttered into her ear. Her eyes grew huge once she realized what the man
actually meant.

We started to scurry away, and then a nice Frenchman approached us and asked us if we were working. Again, we said no, and he walked with us the rest of the way down the road. He told us to stay off of side roads. He also told us not to smile at strangers. Which, despite all evidence against us, we did actually know was a poor idea.

Ah, yes. It isn't every day you're mistaken for a prostitute. Even in a foreign country.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I've been reading out loud to myself in French. It might sound ridiculous, but it's actually really good practice. That way, I can hear how poor my pronunciation has grown, and I can work at correcting it.

Besides, as far as I know, no one can hear me, and even if they did, they'd just think I was talking to myself. Crazy? Yes. But I don't really care. I became okay with that part of me when everyone I knew in France talked to themselves on a regular basis, as well. :)

I love reading "Harry Potter" in French. It puts me in a good mood. I bought 3 and 4 with Sarah in Paris before I read 1 and 2. That was a bad idea, as all the names n'stuff are different...

books. :)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Don't laugh

This sounds stupid, but don't laugh. I just realized the other day that I can write a believable story/short story set in Paris. I mean, I spent six months there.
It's amazing how sometimes you just don't think about the most obvious things in the world, isn't it?
I've been going through all the pictures I took there and systematically saving them onto my laptop. It's weird to see pictures of Versailles, and think, "Oh, I love that palace." And then remember that that day, it was pouring, and Yolanda wouldn't stop complaining about the rain, and I just wanted her to go away so I could enjoy myself. (She did, she took a tour of the palace - I'd done that before, and did it many times thereafter, and I enjoyed walking around the palace gardens.) Silly Spanish girls. (She's getting married in August. Yay for her!)
The first time I was in Paris, for mine and Sarah's little weekend stint, we managed to get to Versailles. Granted, we bought the wrong tickets and ended up paying a 40-euro fine, but that could happen to anybody.
Anyway, we have video evidence of poor, sweet, innocent, Sarah pointing her camera to L'Hotel de Ville en Versailles and saying, "And this is Versailles Castle."
"No dear," I said, and walked quickly to point around the corner, "Actually, that is." And there, spread out before us, lay Versailles. Sarah did this little gasp thing and shut the camera off. We both just stared. I wish I had a picture, but that was before I realized that it was wise to get pictures on cds.

That trip, the one with Sarah, was absolutely crazy. What were we thinking? What were our parents thinking? Ah well, it was fun, and we have some great memories. I have to admit, I'm impressed with us. Somehow, we were able to do everything we wanted to do. Everything. (According to my parents, I was supposed to look at La Sorbonne, but we didn't do that. Eh.) Even though we got lost at almost every turn, we still did everything we wanted. Amazing.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Chicago Missions Trip

So, it's been a bit more than a day. Anyway...

About a year and a half ago, I went on a Missions Trip to Chicago as a leader with the highschool group from my church back home. Since we're only an hour from Chicago, a lot of the kids weren't really that excited about it. It was a "Level 1" Missions Trip. That typically means a number of things. One, it's safe for the majority of ages, certainly for any high schooler. In other words, we won't be working with people that are seriously ill or dying and it's in a relatively safe neighborhood. Two, it's in-country. Three, there isn't any expected Spiritual Being involvement. Not like in, for example, Cambodia. Yes, I know that sounds odd, maybe even stupid and unrealistic.

Anyway, the Missions Team that went to Chicago was a fairly small one. As I said, I was a leader. So were both my parents and my sister. Their were 4 guy students and 9 girl students, the youngest had just finished junior high, and the oldest had just finished high school. The guy:girl ratio was terrible, but it has been since my sophomore year of high school.

In any case, the week went smoothly, without any too-large surprises. That is counting the police officer who was at our site telling us that us white kids shouldn't be there. I can't honestly tell you that that was reassuring. But we already knew we were in a slightly dangerous area and should keep our eyes open for kids with guns and knives.

On Sunday, a woman stood up in church, claiming she had a "message from God" which she delivered to us in a "foreign language," which she then translated for herself. First of all, I didn't see any Biblical basis for her usage of Tongues. In the Bible, tongues were used to give a message from one group of people to another group of people who spoke a different language. So, for example, some friends of mine were in Thailand on a missions trip and they went in groups from house to house, passing out tracts and being friendly with people. The tracks were in Thai. None of the group spoke Thai. However, my friends went to a person's door, and one person stepped back, while the other person introduced herself in English and then gave her the track, and then explained what the track was, in English, with the help of hand motions. What she didn't know, is that she wasn't speaking English. She was speaking Thai, or so we think, because when she went back to my other friend, the friend told her that she hadn't understood a word of what she'd said, but the man at the door was waving good-bye to them, tears in his eyes; having carried on a conversation with her. That is much closer to what the gift of tongues looks like in the Bible. Tongues is not a secret language between you and God. Tongues is used to further God's kingdom, and was particularly useful in Bibilical times, though not so much now.

Being something of a linguist, I was skeptical, simply because of the way it was translated, among other things. My youth pastor, something of a linguist himself, was also rather skeptical, and as the two of us have bases in completely different language sets, were rather surprised that neither of us caught even a word or two, or recognized a pattern or heard her repeat specific words or sounds. It's something you naturally look for after a year or two of a language. It bothered me, but not to the point where I had anything to say about it. Then, the female pastor from the other church stood up, tears in her eyes, excited about the message; at which point I wanted to scream. (The two of us hadn't exactly hit it off. This was just one more strike against her in my book. It's hard to get on my good side if you start out on my bad side. That's not a good thing.)

Our last day in Chicago, we got ready like we had all of the other days. That day, we were cleaning out the church that we'd been assigned to help. I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. I wasn't the only one. Pastor Terry told us that he had a bad feeling as well, and several of us (with me as the "small group leader") had a change of plans and spent our time praying instead of cleaning.

We went to our work with our kids, where I'd actually thought something bad would happen. (Pastor Terry was definitely imagining kids getting shot and someone dying.) Instead, it was an amazing day. Several of the kids put their faith in Christ. Several of the boys, who had been hanging around playing basketball with our guys (those black guys trounced us. They thought it was hilarious) simply because there little brothers/sisters were at our meetings prayed with my little brother and all of them accepted Christ. Ken wouldn't let them leave until he'd talked with them. God had told him to talk to them. He says it's like a pressure to talk to someone; but that he always knows that it's not just a feeling, or a normal pressure.

That night, we went by lake Michigan and sat and had our final "night together" looking at the Chicago skyline. Both of the church groups were there. While we were sitting/standing and singing/talking/sharing, a number of other people were around. One was a woman who was drunk off her butt, talking to her bottle. There were soldiers.
Pastor T wanted out. We left the first chance we got while the other group stayed.

When we got back, the leaders and the boys searched the church. Pastor Terry thought something was inside. I knew nothing was. On entering the building, a thought, clearly not my own, said, "They're not in yet." Our kids without the gift of discernment thought it was ridiculous.

We went outside, and a few of us went and bought some ice cream and stuff at the grocery store down the road, when the other group came back. Now, while we were in a comparitively safe neighborhood for our area, the idea was to not draw undo attention to ourselves by running around and screaming like wild animals. The second the other group stepped off the bus, they were running around, screaming; much like wild animals.

I got my girls back to the church, and as we went inside, Pastor Terry didn't even have to ask me, he looked at me, and I knew what he wanted to know. I nodded. Yes. The idea was gone. They were inside.

Pastor Terry gathered those of us with discernment together and we made another run of the church praying through all of the buildings. I busted a bunch of the girls from the other church who were planning on getting even with us over the ducttape thing the night before. I told them that if I caught them up past lights out for ANY reason, that they would regret it. Pastor T gave me a free-for-all.

It sounds silly, on paper, I know. But we came to the door of the sanctuary, and I couldn't go in. Neither could Josha. Nor Jeana. Nor my brother. The words, "Put your hands on the door," made all of us jump backwards. Once in front of the door, the blackness behind the door took up all my concentration. Finally, Pastor Terry managed to convince us to all put our hands on the door. We prayed. It went away.

I took my girls and we prayed in a circle around our sleeping area, walking around the youth pastor from the other church because she was sleeping already, and we didn't want to wake her up.

I went and stood by my Dad, and we talked for a few minutes. Then, he said, "Robin, go stand over there, on the other side of that card table."
I gave him an odd look, but did as he directed. Nothing by Dad. Something on the other side of the card table. I must have walked back and fourth five times. Nothing. Something. Nothing. Something. It was terrible. Not to mention weird. (I ended up busting those same girls a couple of hours after lights out. They woke up the wrong youth leader. They didn't even ask to go to the bathroom.)

The next day, we came up with a working theory of what had happened.

At the Lake, the other youth pastor went and talked to the woman talking to her bottle. When she came back with the other woman, she was louder than normal, and more emotional than normal, and attracting lots of attention. We think the drunk homeless woman was possessed, and that the other woman (with us) unwittingly invited her in; which is why when "they" came in after the other church returned.

It was a weird week.

Of all the people I know who have the "gift" of discernment, I don't know anyone who wants it.

Saturday, February 3, 2007


“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
~C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters

I can't say that I believe in ghosts. At least not as such. I do believe in spiritual influences. I very much believe that some people have supernatural experiences; and I believe that some people can sense demonic presences.

Yes, that's an odd belief, and it's one that probably not very many people hold. I believe that God does give some people a 'gift' of sorts, thus causing them to be more sensitive to the spiritual side of things than other people. My youth pastor called it the gift of "discernment." He has discernment, as do all three of his daughters, my father, my brother and I. So does one of my best friends as well as my first college roommate. I've had numerous occasions where it has been utilized.

I don't see spiritual beings. I've never had a lights flickering, or lights turning on/off experience. I am, at times, aware of their presence. For me, I have a dark "patch" in my head, occasionally accompanied by a coldness, like a brain freeze, but at the back of my head, not in the front. For other people it's a cold feeling, a weight or something else, hitting different pressure points and affecting different senses. The first time I ever experienced it was when I was with my family and we drove by a house where cocaine addicts lived. I don't remember what I said, but my dad said, "You sense them, too." I didn't know until later what he was talking about.

I don't hear them. They don't shake chains or clatter pots. They don't say anything to me, usually. In my basement, last time I was home, my dad asked me to check out the basement. He'd done a walk through because my little brother may/may not have been messing around with drugs of an illegal nature at some point. Drugs and alcohol invite spiritual beings in. Dad hadn't sensed anything, and I didn't feel anything either, but there were words in mind, I thought that came from somewhere else. Not external voices. A thought, "We're hiding." Probably true. No reason to come out if no one goes down there, right?

Thing is, while you can sense them on your own, it only actually means something if someone else is there, too. My dad confirmed in the first instance that something was there, something was going on. Drugs and alcohol, especially stronger drugs, invite those things in, because you're letting go of your mind of your conciousness.

For those of you who know anything about Spritual Gifts, and the ones that are debatably in use/not in use, some will at this point throw in the gift of tongues. The thing about the gift of tongues, is that anyone can say they speak in tongues and actually be speaking jibberish. This is why I think that Paul states that there must be both a translator and a speaker. You can tell people that the jibberish means whatever you want it to mean. However, if someone you don't know understands you, and can translate, that makes it meaningful. Or, if you are in a foreign country speaking with the natives without any formal training of any kind, that would be considered tongues. So, for me, going to France and speaking in French is not the same thing as if I were to go to Germany and speak in German.

Likewise, if you're walking with your best friend, and both of you have discernment, and you both know something weird is going on, (what that weird thing is varies, and you can't honestly know what it is... it might be people nearby doing drugs... it's impossible to say, it might be a warning of some kind) and you're both praying about it, that makes it far more likely that something is going on. If only person feels/senses it, it's probably an overactive imagination, too much television and/or boredeom.

I have a story that I'm leading up to, but, as it's getting late, and this post is getting long, I will post tomorrow. That way, I'll also be able to organize my thoughts. :)

So, until tomorrow.

Go Bears!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Substitute Teaching

I subbed today for a high school study hall teacher. In my high school, we didn't have teachers specifically for study hall, and I'm not altogether certain what to think.
However, I did quite a lot of writing today. Because I was a sub, and I didn't care, I told them that they could talk quietly, and that if I had to told them to quiet down more than twice, they would have to spend the rest of the period sitting quietly. Guess what? It worked. I had four/five classes that talked quietly. The fifth class, was warned twice, and then they decided that if they were talking to me, then I probably wouldn't be too upset about their talking. They were right. We had a fun 20-minute game where they tried to guess my name. After the first five minutes, they kept asking me to just tell them, but by then I was too amused to do so.

It was nice to wake up early this morning. I used to do it all the time in high school and college. (Making it sound like that was long ago. Yeah, not.) But really, I think I have to blame it on third shift at steak 'n shake. I mean, take Mondays for example. I would work from midnight to seven, though steak 'n shake considered it Sunday. Then a nine o'clock class, and then I would sleep for thirty minutes or so before going to have lunch with the Boy (though this was an 'every other week' kinda deal on Mondays). I would get home, sleep for an hour or so, and then do my homework for my night class. The Boy would call during the night class, and then I would call him back on my way home. Three hours of sleep, back to work. Yeah, and if you're working third shift often enough, you can't sleep that shift, so you end up at work even if you're not working; especially if your roomie is there. And then... not sleeping at night, and struggling to sleep during the day, you're tired. And tiredness became a habit. So, I forgot how much I like to wake up early. Gee, that was a rather long and stupid explanation. Eh.

And, I'm watching "Intolerable Cruelty," though hopefully not for long. *Wants to do something.* I like this movie, though not as much as Zorro. (Note: Catherine Zeta Jones.) The Portuguese roomie informed me I like her because she's "Fairy Tale Princess" pretty, not "realistic, grow to think she's prettier the more you see her" pretty like Angelina Jolie. But that's not of any consequence here. It's just that movies with either of those actresses make me think of the Portuguese roomie... Speaking of, wish I could watch Zorro. Too bad my non-regional dvd player is broken. Too bad Zorro's region 2. Dang it.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


Incorrect grammar annoys me. Not that my grammar is perfect all the time, but if something is blatantly wrong, or spelled incorrectly (on accident), it annoys me. I was looking at something and couldn't decide how to fix it, so I was researching it online(my grammar books weren't helping at all) and stumbled across this quiz. I took it out of curiosity, and was pleasantly surprised by the results.

How grammatically correct are you? (Revised with answer key)

You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

Congratulations! If your mission in life is not already to preserve the English tongue, it should be. You can smell a grammatical inaccuracy from fifty yards. Your speech is revered by the underlings, though some may blaspheme and call you a snob. They're just jealous. Go out there and change the world.
Take this quiz!

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