Pursuing linguistic knowledge

Reading an article about the significance of the Aztec culture to Mexican identity, junior Jordin Wang applies his knowledge and passion of language to his everyday life.

In sophomore year, Spanish teacher Chris Belcher lent Wang a Spanish magazine to read. Since then, Wang has introduced himself to Spanish books and poems and has gotten himself a subscription to the magazine. By doing so, he has been able to learn the culture, vocabulary and the writing style of a professional publication in a foreign language.

“I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t study academically,” Wang said. “I just try to absorb as much as I can. Instead of keeping myself to a textbook, I expose myself to Spanish used in life.”

He also uses the International Phonetic Alphabet, symbols which are used to transcribe sounds of speech. This allows Wang to pronounce words more accurately and achieve a more natural sound.

“I feel that people have a very romanticized notion of what language is. It strikes me as bizarre that we can just make these sounds with our mouths that become associated with ideas that we learn through association,” Wang said.

As one of his projects, Wang decided to use sound changes on words and take sentence structures from certain Asian languages, such as Chinese or Japanese, and apply it to romance languages. Additionally, last summer, Wang created an alternate writing system for English that is based on the writing system for Hindi, which is composed of syllables rather than letters for sounds.

“I just thought that it would be interesting. It’s just something fun for me to do. It’s a way of expressing myself and using my brain when I’m bored. But I’m able to create something which is satisfying for myself,” Wang said.

Wang is interested in learning many aspects of the human language, such as what enables people to use language and how it is used in society.

“It’s really just that languages that is so fascinating. Like how people can come up with such different ways of expressing the same ideas. It’s this idea of the infinite complexity of the human language,” Wang said. “I hope I can understand that more by studying it more in depth.”

By Alison Ho, Staff writer
Photo by Jessie Dixon

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