I’m Having an Affair

The “Basque turn” of my scholarship is, to put it very mildly, not the smartest idea I could have had. I’m narrowing an already narrow field, which my colleagues from other departments consider to be irrelevant and arcane as it is. They consider research into Spain to be useless and boring, so what will they think if I ask for a grant to study the culture of a tiny part of this already ‘insignificant’ country? (I’m obviously not going to apply for such a grant because it’s a total waste of time). The Spanish language, at least, is interesting thanks to the enormous Latin American population of the world. But Euskera? If we were in Nevada, then OK, but not around here.

I feel like a married woman who has fallen violently in love and starts an affair even though she understands it’s destructive. I’m trying very hard to get interested in something else but it’s not working. I’m hopelessly obsessed.

A smart person in my place would branch out into Latin America, which I’m very well-equipped to do. But love can’t be reasoned away.

 

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52 thoughts on “I’m Having an Affair”

  1. Someone, maybe Joseph Campbell, said “Follow your bliss.” Whoever it was, I think this is excellent advice, and it sounds as though you are doing exactly this.

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      1. It’s why I want to study Latvian modernism. But I’d have to learn the language and possibly also Russian. And I’m slightly lazy, so I like to learn by immersion — I am very bad at independent study for languages.

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          1. Actually, recent research is showing this isn’t necessarily true, it’s just that what is usually presented as the alternative to immersion (3-5 hours a week of random conversation/grammar/etc.) is even worse.

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              1. I don’t think anything can possibly be more fluid than moving to a Baltic state, of all places, to learn the language. I wish I were ever this fluid but I couldn’t even afford to go to a sad little study abroad when I was an undergrad. As usual, fluidity stratifies. It’s for those who can afford it. The places in the US that offer immersive learning – like Middlebury – are very expensive.

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              2. Oh, I absolutely agree that fluidity stratifies, and this is a problem with its current incarnation (I even have an academic article that argues this with respect to study abroad). I just don’t think the solution is returning to the nation-state, which also stratifies.

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              3. As if anybody could just go and effectuate such a return because they feel like it.

                I do feel, however, that barring immigrants and people from economically disadvantaged societies from accessing the majority language, which is the only one they will be able to succeed in, is cruel and constitutes a practice of gentle discrimination.

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              4. I think this is much worse than “gentle” discrimination and wish the U.S. for example paid immigrants to learn English in high quality classes, but I’m not following the connection to immersion language learning.

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              5. I’m trying to guess what you mean by my support for nation-state ideology of language. But I’m very glad you support language classes for immigrants. Quebec has such a program and I’m very much in favor.

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            1. I’m a fair bit excited about one of my sister countries being held up as an unattainable goal, so I’m sorry to say that it may be more doable than you’d think. Cost of living in the Baltic states is significantly lower than in the US or most western European countries (numbeo gives me a difference of 30% to 70% lower depending on price category). Wages are too, so you would not necessarily want to move your whole life there, but any kind of external funding would go far further than you’d think it would.

              Why Latvian modernism, by the way?

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              1. Since Z isn’t here right now, I can try to answer for her. She traveled to Lithuania and fell in love with the country. The art,the culture, the architecture, the food. It’s hard to resist. And yes, I think she’ll actually save a packet if she retires there.

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              2. Latvia, you mean? Though, of course, for a Ukraine-born, Lithuania is likely the first country they think of when they think of the Baltics, we have a fair bit of shared history.

                Aside from shared history under the Russians and Soviets, I feel like Latvia and Estonia may be more similar culturally than Lithuania and Latvia, despite our languages being so similar and Estonian being very much its own thing. Riga and Tallinn are both formerly Germanic trading port towns, whereas Vilnius is an inland fortress city. The major cultural shift of Christianity also came from different sources – Poland for Lithuania and the Livonian order for Latvia and Estonia, which eventually had knock-on effects in the latter two being far more open to protestant influences, whereas in Lithuania… Well, my alma mater was literally founded as a Jesuit centre of counter-reformation. You’d think history wouldn’t matter that much, but around 70% of the population still identifies as catholic – nominally at least – and catholicism is still an active intellectual (yep!) force. Though we like to brag about being the last pagans of Europe, too.

                …feels like I’m just rambling now.

                If Z ever does decide to visit Lithuania, she should give me a heads up. I’m not the kind of person to keep really close ties, but I do still know some of the most lovely people in the country who’d be glad to show her around.

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              3. See my longer comment below. Here’s the thing: if you spend 250E on real estate in Latvia you can have EU residency fast. Then you get Latvian residency and citizenship by passing a small test, in Latvian at a competency level (not forbiddingly high), etc. The 250E will get you a fancy apartment with heated floors – in an Eisenstein Jungendstil building. You don’t have to spend nearly that much to get a decent apartment but it’s that EU residency I am after, which costs 350E in Portugal and 500E in Spain. However, I now believe this is unattainable for me due to taxes — all my money is saved tax-free in US, which means I pay taxes when I spend it, and if I move it, I pay taxes there as well. And taxes in the 3d world are one thing, but in EU I probably can’t afford. So I might need a money launderer or something if I am serious. 😦

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  2. You’re clever, you’ll find a way to frame it that has broader appeal. Unless getting really into something arcane no one else seems to know about is precisely the draw, in which case, a thorough and enjoyable suffering to you. 😀

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  3. While I realize you are very committed to nationalistic ideologies of language, I still feel compelled to point out that there is very interesting research coming out of the Basque country these days on the value of multilingual ideologies of language. So, it doesn’t have to be a narrow focus . . . 🙂

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        1. What?! This is why we disagree on everything to do with language, because you like the view of language that comes from the ideology of the nation-state and I like the perspective that comes from the ideology of fluidity. I assumed with all your research on nationalism and fluidity this was also something you were familiar with–are you being serious that you don’t know what I’m talking about or just disagreeing with me on which ideology is preferable?

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          1. Actually, we disagree because I think linguistics is a dead field that tries to resuscitate itself with inventing fake issues. The terminology you are using is unfamiliar even to Google. So what does it tells us other than that it’s not an area of inquiry that is not of great interest to people?

            As for the issue itself, yes, as I said, I support the efforts of the Basque government to preserve the language. But I don’t support the exact same measures in other places. So my view is hardly uniform.

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            1. Many linguists also prefer the nation-state ideology of language (in fact this is in some ways what the modern field was founded upon) so they would actually agree with you. I was thinking of your views on Spanish teaching, I’m not sure what you think about Basque. If you want googleable terms try monolingual ideologies, translanguaging, or plurilingualism, I was avoiding these because I figured you’d just dismiss them immediately, but if you want to google . . .

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              1. It would be easier to have a discussion if you simply clarified what you are referring to. Otherwise it’s a game of “I know what I mean but I won’t tell you.”

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              2. Okay, the nation-state (monolingual ideology) comes from the idea that one nation should have one language and one culture. In this view, languages, like nations, have distinct boundaries, knowing/belonging to one interferes with your ability to know/belong to another, and the goal of emigration/language learning is the (impossible) ideal of having your (linguistic) behavior exactly match that of an (imagined) native. Fluid (multilingual/plurilingual) ideologies contest all that. This is a bit simplified, but does that explain to you what I’m talking about? Or should I try again?

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              3. If I supported this, I’d be against the aggressive policies aimed at the preservation of Euskera in Spain, right? And I’m very much in favor.

                I’m not in favor of them in Quebec because in Quebec they target immigrants precisely with the view of eradicating their linguistic practices.

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              4. About the study abroad and the nation-state. We are a public school. The state gives us finding. We manage to send at least some students on study abroad. For many of them, it’s the first time they are out of state, let alone the country. Once the nation-state is further weakened and doesn’t find this, what will we offer these students? Nice words about how they can enjoy their fluid identities while not getting educated and not traveling abroad? With all its much-discussed negatives, the nation-state model at least offers these minimal protections to people. What does fluidity offer to all but the very few and very fortunate?

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            2. I support the efforts of the Basque government to preserve the language. But I don’t support the exact same measures in other places.

              Why is this? Do you think, for example, that Navajo people or native Hawaiian people should not try to preserve their languages?

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              1. People should definitely do it. But I’m talking about governmental policies that discriminate in favor of the regional language. It’s done in countries with strong separatist movements. Quebec, Catalonia, the Basque Country.

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          2. How is fluidity different from cosmopolitanism? I come from when cosmopolitanism was the ideal and yes, that meant being multilingual and not having mimicking the native speaker as an ideal. But this cosmopolitanism tends to correspond either to the ultra-privileged or the people who keep having to migrate. Both are fluid but not in the neoliberal way.

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            1. Mimicking the native speaker comes from a place of great privilege. How much easier is it for me to do it than for an immigrant who crossed the border escaping from poverty or violence? I’m very aware that there is a sea of difference between somebody like me who emigrated on a whim abandoning a very comfortable lifestyle for intellectual and emotional reasons and somebody who is forced to move by horrible necessity.

              As for cosmopolitanism, it’s a much more limited term than fluidity and only was never used to marginalize those incapable of it.

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              1. I think, though, that Emmagale is talking about Claire Kramsch-type ideas: wherein imitating or reproducing monolingualism, just in a different language, is not the goal.

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              2. For people who are over 6 years of age, it’s an impossible goal anyway, even if they wanted to achieve it. You can’t shed your native language past that age.

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              3. But in the immersion model you are supposed to clone yourself somehow as a second monolingual person. The true near-native is supposed to be perfect in all ways except for the lack of early childhood memories in the second language. And as you know, all this modern research & theory points out that there’s no reason to have “native” as goal — what is native anyway, and what about those situations were the non-native knows the language better than the native, and so on, and so forth…

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              4. It’s an educated native. Yesterday an FB quiz told me I’m 65 because I use words like jubilant and pernicious. The quiz doesn’t have any space for people who are simply well-read at any age and have a good vocabulary.

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              5. For people who are over 6 years of age, it’s an impossible goal anyway, even if they wanted to achieve it. You can’t shed your native language past that age.

                There are, at the very least, exceptions to this. I know one person who describes herself as having a “mimic’s ear.” She is a native speaker of U. S. English, but she is often taken to be a native speaker of Spanish (Mexican), German, and Italian. Further, although her mastery does not rise to the level of fluency, her accent and rhythm of speech is native level in Russian, Czech, and Slovakian.

                Of course, she has not “shed her native language.”

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              6. Native speakers of Spanish can’t believe I’m not a native speaker either. But I’m clearly not monolingual and neither is the person you are describing. One could try to pretend to be monolingual, although I don’t know why they’d do it if multilingualism is in vogue.

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  4. OK, I have not figured out this whole thread but DWeird, yes, it’s Latvia and yes, I’m more interested in Lithuania as country 2 than Estonia and I will go and meet you when I get to the Baltics again.

    Why Latvian modernism? Well, I am fated to look at cultural nationalism in small countries, or large postcolonial ones. I come from Chicano-land and my other family is in Denmark and our father was a Faroese nationalist poet. Then I went on study abroad to Barcelona in the days of Lluís Llach fervor. Now I live in Cajun-land. And the list goes on. Everyone I meet seems to have or to have had a nationalist-modernist project. Diego Rivera and people like him theorized versions of it. Oswald de Andrade. I cannot escape and when I went to Riga, for other reasons, I looked at the museums, saw paintings by people like Romans Suta (I actually wormed my way into his house, it was prohibited and amazing) and said: they are doing it! I have every intellectual and theoretical skill to study this! They also have graveyards filled with people like the first Estonian to write in Estonian, and he studied here in Riga! It’s a field!

    Retiring to Latvia, I now can’t because of EU taxes. I think. It seems that extended visits are smarter. I don’t know. But I have to go on immersion due to my extroversion and laziness. If you are extroverted and lazy, like me, immersion really works although of course from a professional point of view I wouldn’t say that, I’d say the right teaching and also materials are what works.

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    1. I’m a Lithuanian living in the UK, so meeting up personally may not happen if you do visit – I was merely offering up my admittedly limited contacts there. My more wordy comment about the differences between Latvia and Lithuania was mostly directed at Clarissa, because it seemed like she needed help in that regard. 😛

      Note, however, that there is no such thing as “EU taxes” – every country in the EU has its own tax policy, they can vary wildly. Taxes are complicated and you’d be planning to change residency status over time, but as a ballpark figure to get an idea of the overall taxation level, Latvian income tax ranges from 20% to 31% based on income bracket and VAT is 21%. There’s no tax on savings that I know of, so most of your expenditure would likely come from purchasing property – you can probably contact any Latvian realestate agent to get a detailed rundown of how much that is likely to be.

      I’m not a scholar of Spanish myself, so I wasn’t able to follow a few of those parallels. The main draw is seeing a live version of a nationalist-modernist project, and being uniquely positioned to be able to study its immediate cultural and intellectual precursors? Is that right?

      As a Lithuanian myself, I’m a bit split and anxious about this project – being immensely proud and somewhat dazed at the fact that my country exists at all, while also wanting to integrate into Europe proper culturally, which right now tends to mean being extremely wary of any nationalistic excesses. Seeing someone so purely fired up and enthusiastic feels both exciting and a little bit alien. Hope it goes well for you, whatever way you decide to approach it.

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  5. Taxes, right, but that’s high. Anything I liquidate from savings to spend, I pay taxes on here and apparently also in Europe, if I run that money through a European bank – which I have to in order to show I have enough money to live there. If this double-taxing cuts savings in half, I can’t afford Europe. But I’ll still work on this.

    Real estate: Latio! Līderis Latvijas nekustamā īpašuma tirgū!

    Modernist-nationalist project, well it isn’t the current situation I am interested in, it’s the art situation in the early 20th century. I’m sure there’s work on this, but not enough and the artists are fantastic. AND I could be on language immersion, in Latvian but there would also be ways to have all-Russian days. (I understand the critiques of immersion but personally I really enjoy it.)

    LV seems now to be very pleased to be in EU and mainly worried about RU incursion. If I lived there, I would find more out about how the different ethnicities and language groups there really interact but so far as I could tell people were v. glad to be in EU and it wasn’t stopping them from being Latvian — although of course that UNESCO-rebuilt Old Town in Riga reminds one of every other UNESCO-rebuilt Old Town worldwide and resembles a shopping mall in some ways, and has every Western European tourist in it.

    Hanging out in Riga and Jurmala you have great food, actually, although I am not interested in the national dish of grey peas. I strongly suspect that it’s like Scandinavia, though — great food is available but most people, most days, eat the grey peas and other heavy & boring things. I had amazing Baltic fish, Uzbeki stir-fries, Russian stuffed vegetables, all sorts of good things.

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    1. “If I lived there, I would find more out about how the different ethnicities and language groups there really interact but so far as I could tell people were v. glad to be in EU and it wasn’t stopping them from being Latvian”

      • The problem is that they have a tiny population and the younger generation is being siphoned off to live in Europe. So the question is whether there are even going to be any Latvians (Estonians, Lithuanians) if everybody leaves. It’s a huge existentialist crisis.

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