My Commute and a Language Thing

My Commute and a Language Thing

My goal today was just to post a bunch of photos of my daily commute via bicycle to Gymnasium 2 and RTU. I just want to remain thankful and humble each time I leave in the morning to go to work.

I am lucky enough to live right along the river, and it is easy enough to get to the promenade which has underpasses all the way from my house to work. I have one treacherous street to cross, but it is mostly smooth sailing. I know it isn’t winter yet, and I may be singing a different tune in a month or so, but right now, I have to relish in this ride each day.

The best thing, and I have mentioned this before, is that there are no hills. I know that one day I will long for beautiful rolling hills, like the ones I grew up surrounded by in Nebraska, but for now, I will take a nice easy bike ride on a flat road!

The day ended with rain, because Latvia. So my pleasant morning commute became a forced ride through the rain. It wasn’t that bad, but I was soaked by the time I got home. Enjoy the photo show and then I will write a little bit about language.

I put these in kind of an order from the start to finish, and then back again in the rain.

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I found this topic interesting, but maybe not worth a whole post. I just need to write it down before I forget it. In the Latvian alphabet, there are palatal letters including ģ, ķ, ļ, ņ . You can hear how they are pronounced by clicking on the attached link.

I have struggled more with these sounds than any others. I was talking to some students about it, and one girl said you have to sound angry to speak Latvian properly because of the harsh “r” sounds (they are all rolled) and the mouth has to move a lot to make the sounds properly. I think she is right. I have a lazy, fat, American mouth.

So I have to work on the island of Ķipsala, and I used to live near Ķekava. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot get these right. And as I was listening to two students try to teach me how to pronounce these sounds, I realized that my brain just doesn’t hear the sounds correctly. I think that I automatically process the sounds and try to match them to sounds I already know. It is impossible for me to actually hear what they are saying because my brain is tricking me into thinking it is a sounds I have heard before. It freaked me out a little bit. It is like an auditory illusion!

I know this is a true thing because I have tested Latvians with the “v” and “w” sound. Many cannot hear a difference in the sounds because they have no “w” in their language. “th” is similar, but many have learned that in their English studies.

I know this might be old hat to many of my linguistic friends out there, but it is really making me rethink my whole understanding of reality. If my brain can overpower my ears and sense of hearing to Jedi mind trick me into thinking I am hearing something that I am not… then what else is it doing to me? What other senses are being fooled all the time because of a lack of experience or conditioning?

I know, old-school philosophy. And I know in theory that this has always been a thing… sensory perception is flawed, but to truly experience it in a practical way and be unable to overcome it when you know it is happening? Freaky.

For those of you still paying attention, the sound that they were making with the “Ķ”ipsala sounded like a /t/ but then it would morph to something else, and ļoti still sounds like a /y/ to me. But when I imitate the sound they are making with my substituted sound, they tell me it isn’t right. So it is going to take some brain retraining to truly hear these sounds and reproduce them properly.

Here is a giant olu for your amusement.

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