Studying my Mom...for Linguistics!
You'd think that being off-campus would mean there wouldn't be as much hands-on experience possible, but my Experimental Phonetics class is quickly showing me how wrong of an idea that would be.
Phonetics is the study of language sounds, and our class is specifically aimed at using scientific instruments to evaluate the acoustic details related to speech. After covering a lot of the details on how all of the parts of our speech-related anatomy makes the magic happen (the amount of sounds that the world's languages have is incredible!), we were assigned our longstanding project: to study a less-commonly studied language of the world through a native speaker of that language. We selected to study the language Waray, a language indigenous to the islands that my mom's family calls home in the Philippines, and our native speaker…you guessed it: my mom.
Over the term, my friends and I will be collecting language data from my mom over Zoom meetings, and our hope is that we'll discover something unique and special that has never been noticed before by applying the techniques we learned in class to a real example of linguistic research. My other classmates are all studying languages of their own, and the linguist nerd in me is extremely excited to see what they figure out.
If we were on campus right now, we'd probably be looking at ways that we could use the the specialized equipment on campus with the Linguistics department to get to an even deeper level of detail, but even without that blessed geographic privilege, my friends and I are finding ways to make it work thanks to both wonderful curriculum and Professor Stanford's leadership. You're telling me I get to listen (and even learn) my mom's native language and get a grade for it? Only at Dartmouth.
In the class, we also use a timewarped format — meaning that we all watch a lecture on our own time sometime during the day we'd have had class if we were on campus. To make sure we watch the lecture (not that we don't ever not do everything that our professors want or anything…), my professor will do these cold-calls — he'll ask us a question randomly during the middle of the video lecture, and we pause the video, answer the question on a discussion board, and resume — it sounds like a bit weird writing this, but I promise I find it honestly a pretty good way to point to parts of the lecture to take notice of (and make sure I watch every single second of every lecture, which is for my benefit).
The virtual format is really working for a lot of my classes, mostly because my professors made the call to make them "asynchronous" and thus allow me to work at my own pace, mostly on my own schedule. There are a few checkpoints, but otherwise it's sort of the best of both worlds — structure and flexibility at the same time!
From the time of my writing this post, decision day is just a few weeks away. By the time the Class of 2024 makes its debut, I hope we're on campus, but at least you know that the Dartmouth professors are taking care of us. And if their classes are this good over Zoom, can you imagine how good their classes are in person?
I can't wait to share more details about my other classes as the term progresses, and I hope your families are healthy and safe. Mahalo for reading, and as always, best wishes and I'll see you next time!