Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Newest Buckeye: Notes on Linguistic Confidence and Extraversion

The Newest Buckeye: Notes on Linguistic Confidence and Extraversion

Well, I’m officially a Buckeye! I’m registered at OSU, and had my first class (Cotemporary German Society) yesterday. I go back tomorrow. I just want to take time and talk about my first day re-entering academic culture. One thing is, I have a lot more enthusiasm and ambition. There is a lot to be said about working towards a visible goal, even if its schoolwork. The van dropped me off in front of the building (Scott Lab) and I didn’t have much further to go. I can say though, that everything was one hundred times bigger than Edinboro. Scott Lab made me mentally and unconsciously flash back to the old political science/history building in Edinboro; Hendricks Hall. Long halls, but disproportionately scattered with students sitting on benches or clutching books.

It is possible that the overlap of the memory will disappear in time, but what stood out to me was that once I had the goal in sight, I was not nervous. As soon as I entered the German class, the instructor began talking German to me, (Getting my name, signing the audit form etc.) and my confidence immediately rose.

There must be a link between linguistic confidence and the negotiation of space. I enjoyed helping my fellow students with German words. Also, I noticed many students are 19-20. I immediately found a place to park and was joking and talking with the students (during our introduction game.) like we had known each other for years.

Perhaps I’m already beginning to make a name for myself! The students seem to already know that I’m the guy to go to when they don’t know words; it makes me smile. I overheard several confident German speakers, as well as a few shaky ones. Both make me happy, and I swear again, there is a link between linguistic confidence and focus. It’s when I switch to-and-from linguistic settings (German/English) that I become nervous, and that makes biological sense, because it confuses the brain momentarily; speaking of course, as a non-native. In general, I find that Americans wander into chit-chat and venting while Germans do not. It could be too, that I’ve only ever been a student.

I liked introducing myself to the class. Although, for good measure, I said I came from PA, which is half-true. I went to PA for college. But, you can read that on my profile. The professor then explained the syllabus and course materials. We’re reading the story Tschick, and the professor emphasized (in German) that the theme of the class would be COMMUNICATION. (KOMMUNIKATION, all in caps.) rather than projects. So, we have to interact with each other to improve our knowledge of German culture and current events in Germany. My heart jumped as I heard this. If you take anything away from this post, let it be that I purpose there is a link between linguistic confidence and space. When I went out of the class, I wasn’t worried about getting lost or when my next aide comes, my focus was on a goal. As you can see from previous posts, I’ve always been an advocate of goal-oriented, concrete communication. I didn’t worry about such vacuous things as “care” and all it‘s various misuses. This was concrete; go home, do my work, help people learn German. And I’m happy to do that.

In fact, foreign languages give me concrete reference points to deal with, and so I think it helps my focus. Also, I get to help people. Mainly, I think it shifts my brain from introversion to extraversion by focusing thoughts not on what might go wrong, but on what I know is right, and the what I can do for the world around me. It may seem frivolous to attribute my extraversion to controlled conversation, but for me, language is the extension of ability, and when I can’t express myself is actually the only time I feel disabled; and even then not because of my body, but because of fighting with others. It’s like a muscle cramp.

Anyway, afterwards, I went to the German House where German Club meets, but no one was home. Next time, I plan to ask when they meet. It feels great to have something to contribute in that class, and I look forward to going back. Also, if anyone can link me to scientific evidence between linguistic confidence and extraversion, I’d love to see if my hypothesis (i.e. “controlled conversation focuses on external objects.”) holds out. I can back it up culturally and historically for Germany, but it would be nice to have a scientific, biological reason for myself.

1 comment:

  1. From a psychological perspective, I think there's some truth to what you say. In therapy, we call trying to help someone become more engaged with their surroundings "Behavioral Activiation." This is one half of the component of cognitive behavioral therapy, the behavioral part. By behaving in a different way, you then affect the cognitive aspect, or the mind. Very helpful, especially when working to alleviate Major Depression. In a nutshell, the concept is that "work is the best therapy." By becoming engaged with your surroundings, you are investing part of yourself in them too, which makes you feel both productive and good about yourself.