A diglot is somebody who is fluent in two languages – bilingual, in other words. Being bilingual in New York City can be a very useful thing. It has also made it much easier for me to learn Spanish as a third language in school, since I grew up speaking two languages. There are many Russian immigrants in this city, and I am one of them. When I go shopping at Brighton Beach, the Jewish-Russian neighborhood near Coney Island in Brooklyn, I am able to speak to the shopkeepers in Russian, since they are often more fluent in Russian than English. Knowing Russian allows me to know what I’m buying in those stores, as many of their products have Russian titles, and unlike an average American, I actually know what I’d be buying. A lot of Russian foods do not have a direct translation into English, but since I know the language, I am able to enjoy many of the foods I used to enjoy when I lived in Moscow. And, since quality food is very important to me, I am glad that I am what they call a diglot.
Hi WebWordVisionaries. Think I may be stating the obvious with these comments, because I don’t feel I have any real web experience/understanding. But, in fact, that’s what fascinated me: I couldn’t get over the construction of the site, especially after seeing and hearing the presentations at the library. So, I was really wowed by your mastery of the technical aspects of the medium/media you were using, wowed by that before I even got to the content. The conception of the project, by itself, was amazing to me.
Which brings me to the content and then to the uses to be made of what you’re doing. I really see the use of the overall project as a teaching tool.
Seems to me that it could consume an entire semester of middle school, much in the same way one might take a course at college on, let’s say, European Studies, which would encompass, lit., philos., math, science, and so forth. One might start with the content parts, i.e, geography, history, spelling, and the like and then progress to the means by which the entire site came together technically and how it all interacts. Or make that two courses. Putting together the lesson plan(s) would be so stimulating for the teachers of those grades.
Given that children seem to be taught and to learn differently in this era, here’s why I think the project should be used at the middle school level: children of that age should have learned basic skills and would be ready to be stimulated by the complexity of the Net and its links. And for the thousands who can’t read and do basic math, given the many social and economic problems that so many NY school children are faced with, this project would provide some real stimuli for curiosity to grow. How exciting to be able to spell and know what a diglot is–I had lunch with a Korean friend of mine and informed her that she was a diglot, so I put my learning to immediate use! And what about those really hard, arcane words. What bragging rights a 13 yr. old could get. Or what a contribution could be made by a child with no skills, who could yet see his/her input right up there on a computer screen. Just give him/her a camera for a class “walk around the neighborhood” project. Or give them a local map and let them lead their classmates to the candy store and interview the owner. And on and on…..
As for the other age groups, one could parse out the manner in which the project provides the best access to their interests. What about the senior citizen centers or whatever is used in NY to spread knowledge. Those seniors are all over town, soaking up learning and being in a position to pass it along to others. And many of them are a little light on computer use, even though that has rapidly changed in the last few years. I’m always astounded when I meet someone around my age who functions technologically like a neanderthal, but they are numerous yet.
And then, of course, there’s the project as art form and community. Don’t think I need to comment on that, as you probably started with that thought.
The project was particularly interesting because it seems to make unusually productive use of new technologies to incorporate literary ideas. Could become the Zagats learning tool for all our cities, thereby making them all Open Cities for expanded thought and civic behavior.
As a diglot, the subway seems to me like the place to eavesdrop, full of conversations I can secretly understand and full of secret conversations I wish I could. I had worked on a short sound piece on this subject during my first semester of film school, and oddly enough I find myself reviving it on my last semester. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhiIPe11p5Q
Arthur Avenue seems to be best known for its Italian epicurean delights, so I am surprised to discover a multitude of Eastern European shops and restaurants on this famous Bronx neighborhood avenue. Since I lived in Sarajevo, Bosnia for several weeks in 2001, I am particularly pleased and intrigued by the presence of this large, unexpected community. Susan and I spent a day visiting a Montenegrin sundry, a Kosovo bar and grill, an Albanian video store and finally the most welcoming, aromatic pizza parlor I have ever walked into in my life. I would imagine there must be at least ten Tony’s Pizza Parlors in New York City, but the Arthur Avenue Tony’s has a quality all its own. Fylip, the owner and kitchen wunderkind behind this Albanian community gathering spot, welcomes each and every customer inside this corner restaurant at the end of the avenue. Of course, we immediately smelled the spectacular scent of Burek meat, cheese and spinach pastries. Within seconds, however, our curiosity was piqued even further upon noticing the framed photos of Mother Theresa, the large statue bust of a notorious Albanian military leader, and the sounds of many Albanian women and men chattering in their native language. We were the strangers, the bewildered outsiders, and we knew right away that this would be the perfect place to create another mini-DIGLOT documentary. A few weeks after our initial visit, Susan and I returned to Tony’s Pizza to listen to the owner, his father and the two extraordinary cooks, all fairly recent Albanian emigrants, talk in English and their native language.
A few nights ago, I drove to Staten Island to look for one of our city’s most dynamic ethnic communities. Between 4,000 and 5,000 Sri Lankans live on the island, and they have worked hard to preserve as much of their culture as possible. While I sat eating fish, lentil cookies and vegetable pastries, I noticed that this small, steam table restaurant is far more than a place to buy a meal. Over the course of our one-hour meal, at least 20 people popped in to pick up some much needed snacks from the restaurant’s owner, a much loved, utterly charismatic woman who stands like a gracious queen behind her counter. The neighboring grocery store is equally friendly, functioning as a Sri Lankan sundry for most of its customers and a sort-of anthropological museum for the few other people who happen to stop by. If you listen to our audile recording, you will hear the owner of the grocery welcoming his customers.
I just wanted to share a great experience I had on a shoot yesterday for Diglot.
Down the street from my apartment in Queens there is a fabulous street cart vendor aptly named King of Falafel & Shawarma who really does have the best of both.
The owner is an extremely exuberant Palestinian-American man who makes it his business to know everyone in the neighborhood.
I will be editing the footage and hope to have it up soon but in the meantime I wanted to share some still images with you all.
Just go to this URL for a photo gallery: http://www.abecedariumnyc.com/042807.html
Another morning with a diglot, a Latin-rooted word that sounds more like a rare flying animal than a multi-lingual human being. Today I follow Paula Felix Didier, an Argentinean film archivist, as she organizes a collection of 16mm films. I am appreciating the international quality of life here in New York, how easy it is to find a diglots who sometimes move with great effort and sometimes with astounding ease between the different worlds in which they work each and every day.
I spend the morning videotaping a Chinese accountant who finds it absolutely hilarious that I have any interest whatsoever in her daily meanderings between Cantonese, Mandarin and English. When I tell her she is a diglot, a person who speaks two languages, and that this is something very special, worthy of documentary attention, she seems both dismissive and charmed.