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Jun 15, 2020

Dr. Susan Tamasi is a pedagogist at Emory University. Spending the last decade and a half researching, authoring and teaching some of the brightest minds to communicate. The thing is, her approach to education and leaning is filled with a casual and comfortable tone. conventioNOT episodes are filled with interviews, but none quite like this. 

Dr. Tamasi informs Mike and McD about the NBC Pronunciation Standards they learned as elementary students and dives deeper into the fundamentals of communication in the US. Shockingly enough, her drive as a linguist isn't to speak all of the languages... but to understand the people who do. 

Show Transcription:


Hey everybody, welcome and thanks so much for joining us on today's episode of conventioNOT, I'm Ryan and I chat with Dr. Susan Tamasi, the program director of linguistics at Emory University.



What does that mean? That means Susan's studies the way people talk, specifically in the English language, she travels around the country around the world, listening, mostly listening,



but appreciating and understanding that the idea and the goal is communication.



We thought it was a pretty good time to share this message, and we can't think of a better person to communicate it.



I think Ryan and I have admittedly always been students so the way people interact with one another.



If that's the case, and Dr. Tamasi is definitely the Professor.



This conversation to me was one of the more fascinating ones we've had on the show, but I think you'll find it interesting, educational and thought provoking. It was heartfelt and pretty deep. Because I think we all need to take some more time to understand communication. If nothing else, just listen to one another. On that note, sit back relax. Check out this episode with Dr. Susan Tamasi.



We are recording.



Look at that. So, I guess, Mike, is it like 6am for you? You got coffee? I've got a beer. I do have my coffee. But no, it's noon. I mean, I've been up for a couple hours now. I mean, I'm doing pretty good. I'm well into my work day.



Our guests, Dr. Susan Tamasi was kind enough today to join us a little bit after work hours, I guess it's six o'clock eastern time, which is probably a little bit closer to what we're trying to record. Anyway, a little bit more casual interview.



But we're really glad to have you today. I'm excited to be here. Do you think you could take a second to introduce yourself? Sure. So I'm Susan Tamasi. My official title is professor of pedagogy and the director of the program and linguistics at Emory University, where I've been teaching for 17 years now.



Yeah, I live in Atlanta, Georgia. And I'm really excited to be here.



All right, right away. That word you used professor of. I've heard that. enunciate, oh, I'm gonna screw up a bunch of stuff today. So say that in normal people where it's like, what does that mean? teaching? It means teaching. That's all it means is what's pedagogy? God's here, go, gee, what's that word? What's the entomology of that word? entomology, the bugs of it.



One of my old roommates was an entomologist. So we had lots of jokes about me doing entomology around the house.



He also would bake with bugs, which always made things really, really interesting when they like, oh, a cookie. Oh, it has worms in it. Fantastic.



So pedagogy references,



not just teaching, but also the study about teaching and best practices and understanding, you know, different types of teaching and strategies and recognizing what's best for students and for those that are teaching them and the right materials. So I don't actually do research on teaching itself. But the position that I have is teaching focused as opposed to research focused. So yeah, that's, that's my title. How long have you been at Emory for 17 years? I just finished my 17th year. Congratulations. That's, that's quite a tenure. Does that include your time as a student? No. So that was a an additional for earlier on. So I went to Emory in the early 90s, fully dating myself now.



And then I left and I did a great little stint in the marketing, in marketing in the music industry, and realize that it sounded super cool. And I absolutely hated the work that I was doing. And I hated where I was, and I hated everything about it. So I went back to school for the thing that I started drawing Venn diagrams, and realize that I was really interested, like what drew me to music was youth subcultures and how communities interact with one another and



And I had been a Russian major at Emory. So I was, you know, also interested in language and how that comes across, and how it connects to community and society and identity. And so I started drawing all these Venn diagrams and realized linguistics was in the middle. So I went back to school for that. And six years after that started teaching at Emory, because one of my old professors needed somebody to come in and help with the program. And I just basically stayed until they started, kept signing my contract, so I wouldn't leave.



That sounds like such a simple approach.



What Yeah, sometimes they don't just show back up every year. I mean, clearly,



something pretty productive in your time.



I mean, you know, I just, I just kind of hang out until they finally said, Okay, I wore them down, I think, or, you know, I put in so much blood, sweat and tears that they finally said, All right, we get it, we get it. You can you can have this. Yeah. Where are you from that region. Like Originally, I know, you said you like when did your schooling there but like you grew up in that area. So I grew up in a suburb, Marietta east, Cobb, that's about 45 minutes ish north of Atlanta. So it didn't, I didn't go too far away from college. But it was far enough that my parents weren't going to show up. And then I left, I keep coming back to Georgia, I go away, I come back, I got away, come back. But it's it's home. So it's nice to be able to have a job that I love near my family, especially as my parents get older, it's been really nice to have that opportunity. Like, I feel like the time in full disclosure, Susan and I have known each other for a few years. But I feel like that time from what I understand around Atlanta that like, from the let's say, basically, from the time that the Olympics were announced that they were coming to Atlanta to the time with which you're talking about like you go to college, and you go through there, that it becomes kind of an urban epicenter. Was that part? I mean, certainly, that's part of your formation as a young person growing up in around the city that it is, but was that part of what dictated your career? Somehow? Um, I think it might have. So what dictated my career in terms of where I ended up, was the fact that I came from a family from New Jersey and was raised in the suburban south. And so the idea of how people sounded and what language that they used was something that was talked about a lot around my household, or you know, in terms of either making fun of people or just like, Oh, you know, the families just like dialect, right? Like, yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah. So I mean, that's what I do. I actually, my, my focus now is looking at the attitudes and perceptions that people have about dialects in the United States. So from there, there's a direct correlation. But it was also that I grew up in a suburban environment, I came into the city a lot, I had lots of interactions with people from around the country.



You know, around the world a little bit. I mean, I was kind of somewhat isolated in that, you know, we had some international students and stuff, but it wasn't nearly what I'm around right now.



And but it was, it was that experience that you know, you should travel and that you should see people in places and meet different types of people. I think that was the setup. That allowed me to



kind of see positivity and identity and diversity and kind of explore that throughout my life, both professionally and personally.



Holy shit, I'm so fascinated what you do, like, I'm sorry, I'm gonna be um,



this is gonna be awkward, cuz I'm gonna throw some questions out there that may make me so really, I hate being ignorant. Obviously, I hope everyone hates being ignorant. But there are just some things that, you know, I don't want to sound ignorant with any of my questions, but you will not I do something that's really weird that most people have. I mean, people like what do you do for a living? I'm like, I'm a linguist, and everybody just goes,



I have no idea what that means. And that's fine. And I love talking about it. Also, stop me and ask questions if I skip over something because I talk about this all day, every day. And so some, you know, judging how much detail to go into,



you know, if it's too much jargon, but like, I just love that this is such a tangible topic, right? I mean, unless you've never left here, your little county lines, um, you've heard some folks say the same words in a different way. You know, and I don't. I love that you're able to trace that back to you know, like,



Young a young age you had that that? Whether it was an interest or just the ongoing kind of joke in the house, you know, alright, can I say this? Like,



your family's from New Jersey? So do people in New Jersey think their accent is the norm? And everyone else talks by me? Like, is that just the natural? So the So the answer to that is generally speaking people think that whatever they sound like or whatever people around them sounds like that that's exactly what everybody should be speaking. And in fact, we can we refer to this in some instances when people are pretty secure and confident about their own speech. We call it linguistic security. Michigan tends to have the most linguistically secure people,



people like,






Like, I don't have an accent, like, Yes, you do. Um, New York, New Jersey, and the South East are three areas in the United States that have pretty heavily stigmatized, dialects, ways of speaking, that are talked about pretty openly in the media. You know, growing up, I thought, Okay, well, I mean, I'm Southern, and I have some some parts of my speech that are Southern, but I don't sound like those people over there. Those are the real Southern people. So there's, there's definitely a stigma that's really well known. So it wasn't that, like my family in New Jersey necessarily thought that they had the best speech, but they didn't necessarily think it was that bad. And the people, my family in Georgia, same thing, or they're like, Oh, you know, there are people that are worse. And I understand the perceptions of that some people think it's bad. But you know, this is my people. This is like, yeah, I mean, that's mom's cooking, right?



That's what it tastes like cast, right. And so I guess it's, well, not only is it supported by media, in a lot of like sitcom media. But there's also like experiences from that perspective. So having lived and worked in the southeast, and then coming from Michigan, and it's funny, I want to come back to this because we were actually taught that we talk normal. I mean, Mike, I don't know if you remember this or not. But like, I remember being taught that the Midwest accent is the



neutral. Yeah, maybe not good or bad, but just not on any side. If you look at it as like elementary education, like part of elementary education, we taught that right? For us, there certainly is a component with which well, I guess that contributes to your statement, right, Susan? But like, you know, being so confident and an overcomer. And that, but there certainly is in the southeast or in the northeast? And this is kind of a question like, you really can diagnose where somebody is from, I think a little bit easier than you can, let's just say west of the Mississippi.



I don't want to be so bold as to say why is that right? Because that could I'm sure be a huge answer. But could you give us some indicators on like, how that ends up happening? Can we just include of those five cities? You mentioned earlier? Can we include Boston in the Boston is?



Like, yeah, no.



So So there, there are a couple of things to talk about. So the way that language works is language is always changing and transforming. And it always works to meet the needs of its speakers. And as one of the things that happens all the time is light. I mean, one of the there are very few universals about language. The Universal is that language always changes. And now what happens is language will always change at different times in different places, and among different groups of people. So why do people in England sound differently than people in the United States, because people picked up and they moved over and they planted here. And then these two sets of people change differently over time. And so now we have two different lenses and variables. Yes. And so as people come together and split apart, their language continues to change. And so the people that split might sound like them for a little while, but then they'll start to sound a little bit different. So every place in the United States has to some extent, it depends on how closely you want to look or where you want to divide the lines. Everywhere has its own accent everywhere has its own dialect.



And I mean, in my class, I draw lots of maps and have, you know, people moving across the country and saying that



what happened was on the East Coast of the United States, so the places that were settled by English speakers earliest these are the areas Boston New York, Charleston, New England, Savannah






Richmond, these are all the places that had their language set before the American Revolution. It's changed over time, but like that was in place. Now what happened is as those people moved west, this is my little This is my, as people moved west, they all started to interact with one another. So on the West Coast 5060 years ago, everybody's kind of sounded a lot of like, compared to the people on the East Coast, which still had those pretty distinct differences. Now, what's happening is in the last 2030 years, we're watching as the West Coast is changing as well. Northern California sounds different from Southern California, the Pacific Northwest sounds different than fornia. And one of the most interesting thing that's, that's going on right now that we've been able to track for the last 50 years, is there's there's a shift in how people are speaking along the northern part of the US. And it's happening just in cities. It's happening in Detroit. It's happening in Milwaukee, it's happening in Buffalo in Minneapolis, St. Paul Chicago.



And so those areas that used to be considered just like the common standard American Speech, actually, people speak more differently. Now they're



versus the rest of the country than they ever did. So now that's an area where I can actually pick out somebody from Michigan a lot easier than I can pick out somebody from most places in the United States anymore. Man, I could speculate all over that. I wonder how much digital communication and therefore so like, if I communicate digitally all day, do I become more Nucleic in the way that my localized accents affect me? If that makes sense, right? I don't know. That's so



that's a cool subject, man. Yeah, sorry. But those are two sides. So people always say, Well, I mean, and this happened with radio, it happened with TV, it happened with the internet, oh, with x technology, people are gonna start sounding more like, what happens is that doesn't happen.



What it does happen is you understand more people, because you're used to hearing them, like a standard British dialect, we have no problem hearing now. Because we hear it all the time.



you're interacting with more people you're hearing more people than you would have never heard before. It's not necessarily changing your speech a whole lot. Because it's still only a small part of what's going on and you don't interact with the radio or TV, you kind of have to have that interaction for it to affect you.



So people would always say like, oh, the United States, everybody is going to start speaking the same. We're actually speaking differently from one another. But these types of communication systems does allow us to have influence from people that we wouldn't expect,



or that we wouldn't have had before. I just



there's no one to answer one of the earlier questions that you guys had, the reason you were taught that you had, like, the standard best way of speaking was when we decided to create a media standard when TV, TV and radio were happening 30s 40s 50s



they went to the Midwest, and wrote down what people sounded like and said this, and actually, you can still find that booklet. It's the NBC standard national broadcast on people from the Midwest. That's Yeah, it's not Midwest, people found that out. We're like, we're good at something. We're gonna make sure everyone knows it. Right. Like it was, it was democratically American, the West, the East Coast, nobody knew what was going on in the West Coast, the East Coast was to had too much. Yeah, a reminiscence of previous times. It makes sense. I have just so many, because like I admitted earlier, like, once you started getting into this, I just have so many, like, entertaining anecdotes over the years that are very specific to this topic. And but they're all they're all related to travel. Um, and like what you're saying earlier about, you know, the change in the language and you know, that it the further back the roots go, you know, the less altered it has been over time. And I didn't even think about like, West Coast. I mean, in the fact that you say now, there are starting to be, you know, like, pockets of very different language along the west coast. Like, that's just



that makes sense. You know what I mean, but it's just the 30 years from now, people from Oregon are gonna sound completely different than people from San Diego and like, to me a kid from Michigan, maybe not, I mean, I don't know that's probably an extreme but the idea that you can pick that up um,



That's such a unique like, you must.



I love when musicians talk about just noises. You know what I mean? Because it's like, What are you talking about? Man, there's no, there's no beat, like, that's a street car, you know, but you must just hear noise, human noise in a, in a in a very different way. I was gonna say beautiful, but there's probably so much going on.



It's all beautiful. I love it all. I recognize like, I notice a lot of it, I don't notice a lot of it because I don't want to work all the time. Or sometimes you just turn it off. I've been out at cocktail parties and somebody starts talking about something. I'm like, Oh, can I can you guys make me not like, I don't want to work right now? Do we have to talk about this? And they're like, Oh, yeah, you do this for a living? And then they start asking questions like, okay.



But I'm actually kind of really bad at telling where people are from based on their speech, because there is so much interaction at this point, unless, you know, something comes out that's very specific of like, Oh, I know that one individual word or pronunciation is rarely used outside of this particular community. So sure, you know, I do that. But you know, when I hear it, I'm like, ooh. And my husband is like, really, you're gonna pick up on that.



So this might be a little bit of a good pivot point. Right. And so, you know, as we talked, the show is about both. And since you mentioned your husband, one of the things that has always infatuated me about you guys, is that you are in constantly in a pursuit of education about people in a constant pursuit about education around the world, actually, no, that's a big part of the way that y'all invest your resources. They call us y'all, they're almost almost comes off the tongue as if I don't say dollar.



Ultimately, I know that



you invest your dollars, and your resources, more importantly, experienced this around the world. So talk to us a little bit about that, because not so much, you know, in the academic format. I'm fortunate enough to see some of the the Facebook post and some of the beautiful pictures that Jamie takes when you guys experienced this, but how does that help inform your travel around the world?



Um, I mean, you know, he and I have made a pact A while ago, I don't know, implicitly or not



that I think we made a pact. But I don't know if we actually did,



it was just a decision that was somehow made that we work too hard just to kind of hang around here that when we have time off. And that's really when I have time off because I have a very specific schedule, as a teacher, that whenever I have any time off, so



winter break, spring break, summer, that we go somewhere. And as we've gotten older and have had the means to do it, we go broader and broader and where we can go around the world.



I was actually supposed to be presenting at a conference in Hong Kong this week. So that didn't happen. And I've never, never done Asia. So I'm really looking forward to the webinars not gonna be the same as going to Hong Kong. Well, they, yeah, they said, they didn't even try to do it online. They're like, we're just gonna postpone it for a year. It's a conference that happens every other year. So they're just gonna postpone this time.



So it's just and it's funny, because I gotta backtrack for a split second. Whenever I tell people that I'm a linguist, the inevitable answers that anybody gets who is a linguist. There are two responses, one Oh, I better watch what I say. Which is kind of ironic, since I'm the one who studies language variation and dialects and all of that. And like, yeah, I'm the last person to judge anybody's grammar. But the what most linguists get as the response is, oh, how many languages do you speak? Ah, that's the same thing. But lol and that's just it like everybody's just because they also use the word term linguist as translator, which is a totally different thing.



And so when people say, how many languages do you speak, I'm like, one, I speak English. That's what I study. I even I don't even study all of English. I study American English.



And I study the history of English. So we travel so much, it's kind of funny, because we were like, Oh, you must, you know, know all these languages and go all these places and like, now, it was just kind of really nice to go someplace and not hear people speaking English for a while, and just absorbing observations. Like, I'm not paying attention to what people are talking about, like if people are talking about politics, or if they're talking about somebody's clothing or just like completely banal inane, whatever they're discussing, and not picking up on that making. It's it's



not pulling me into that, which can happen around here. And I don't try to be judgmental, but sometimes like, what are you guys talking about?



Because I do use drop a lot. But it just allows me to travel and just watch people and eat and drink and experience architecture in all of the beauty that's around and the amazing aspects of people,



just by kind of not knowing and giving myself the opportunity to be aware of things that I'm not always aware of. So that, for me is a key aspect of of travel and being able to, to do that. So Ryan, I'm not sure if that really kind of got to what you're asking, but it did, right. I know, because of some of our previous discussions that learning the language, I know you're not the person. And there are people like this who gain a benefit from deciding they're going to go somewhere. And then they use, there are a lot of modalities. Now I think you could teach yourself on language to be able to survive that. And so, you know, maybe five years ago when I learned that this was something that you all invested resources in, right, because affordability hopefully changes for all of us right over time. And that's what we want to so many people spend every waking hour working on. But the possibility of going somewhere with your kind of background. I mean, I think almost I don't like the word assume. But I think that a lot of times it would be assumed or typecast that that you somebody like you would be going there to know all of the language to immerse yourself in that. And so that to me, always struck me as one of the like magical parts about knowing you all as a couple you as a person, because it wasn't about that it is about the way that that informs how you like take in all of the art, you mentioned the architecture and you know the pieces of the creativity in the areas you go that draw you and so there's no shortage of that here in Atlanta. But it's not like it's just too much English speaking though, she needs to go somewhere non English speaking just fine. I love I love traveling around the US as well. It's just really nice. So as you said like it's it's seeing and experiencing a different culture language is definitely a part of that. But it's it's the bigger aspect that I'm that I'm interested in as well.



And like so we do we learn at least some phrases I can I know probably how to ask for a table for two in order a bottle of wine in a good dozen languages at this point. So you know, we get that down. Before we go places, both of us will have kind of some of the basics. And we've studied languages that allow us to at least get some of those



general interactions pretty pretty well. We can kind of work some things out. And I've never been to a place yet where I didn't know that alphabet. So that's helpful to like being able to read signs and plaques and things like that. If you went to Hong Kong, you would have known the alphabet now No.



So I have a year, too. But in Hong Kong, I mean English as an official language. So actually, I'm not really worried about.



But in Yeah, my job also was to learn when we rent a car, I have to learn all the traffic rules of that country. That's my job as we go replaces. So you know, we'll learn a lot and we have part of that. But we also recognize that we're getting this much of the culture and this much of the language.



And instead of going back to the same place over and over again, to get a deeper understanding of that, we've made a choice to keep trying other places. So I mean, we recognize that we're getting surface level discussions and observations with people.



But, you know, it also allows us to have a very much broader view of the world. So



man, I just leave what I think is a broader view of the world. I don't know if everybody love and I'm sorry, because you You didn't paint this picture. But I've gone ahead and painted it in my mind of Gee, like, just deciding based on language alone, like now, I don't know, mainly English speaking. Let's avoid that one. Like, we don't need that. We know what they're saying there. I mean, because that different forms of English New Zealand was awesome. I'm so excited.



That is what I was getting at in a very roundabout way, which isn't a strength of mine to be succinct and direct. But if you've been to Hawaii before, yes. Okay. Um, so, you know, Ryan and I grew up suburban Detroit. My wife and I moved to Toronto. We lived in Canada for eight years.



Where I was often asked like, Are you from the south, and I would often very entertaining conversations with people about how I said hockey and things like that. Then I moved to Hawaii, and



I had never really lived



in, in an area where there was a



what's the right term for a severe alteration of English? I mean, I know what they call it here. I will, I will go one further. It's not a severe alteration. It's such a severe alteration, it's an interaction with other languages. It's a totally different language, pigeon. It's like it is. So you have Hawaiian English, but you also have Hawaiian pidgin English, or a totally different language. And it is, to me, it's the thing of like, in like, because I'm the type of person like, I just love differences in people. Like, that's something ever since I was a little kid, you know, my parents would be like, Michael, you cannot walk up to strangers and ask them about their hair, you know, like I was just like, but I've never seen someone with hair like, so I moved out here. And I'm lucky enough to have met a variety of people, including quite a few fishermen. One of the things that I love and respect the most about a lot of the guys that I fish with, is the fact that they can turn it on and off. So they will literally, they will speak to me and clean No, because they have their nine to five jobs. They're not on the boat all the time, guys, with their nurses mechanics of variety thing. They speak to me in plain English. And then they turn 90 degrees and speak to the other guys on the boat. And the language I cannot I might pick up like a 10th I kind of get what they're talking about.



And I love it. I just sit back and there's times where they're like, Mike, Mike, and I'm like, What? Like, we're talking to you, man. I'm like, Whoa, you gotta slow it down, or use some directional pointed stuff like, and it's just the best ongoing joke. I mean, I I can guarantee half the time they don't know they've switched. It's generally it's just the way it Yeah, this is the way I talk to this person. And so this is how I say it. When I'm talking. I think.



I think it's such an incredible ability, like cuz I imagined my buddy at work as a nurse, you know, when he's, he's talking to the doctor who graduated from Washington or whatever. Um, but then he's got to turn around and talk to this patient. And like, a lot of the times the patients and there's communities here in Hawaii, where it's, that's all they speak at home is Pidgin, right? So I cannot communicate to that patient to the same ability that my buddy, can you know what I mean? Like, yeah, and usually wait quicker to like, the thing I love about pigeon is that like, that was three sentences, you just smashed into two words. And the person you're talking to knew exactly, I don't know what you're talking about. But that person knew. And Damn, you got right to the point real quickly. Yeah, no, it's it's an amazing language to listen to. And there's such a connection there. And there was Hawaii has such a history of them trying to smash it.



Like the educational system trying to push it out. And there was, you know, people being punished for speaking it. And there's a resurgence,



where more people are learning pigeon, and and,



you know, using it in different areas. So in night, and you've seen you've given a perfect example, right, why it's important to have



it one of the other things I study is health communication. So the idea of this, this, like health care provider and patient interaction, where it needs to be, not only when the patient doesn't understand the more standard or doesn't understand English, like doesn't understand why in English, that you have to go into Pidgin to be able to get the point across, but also in a situation where you're also trying to comfort somebody, being able to speak to them in the home language actually, can make things easier and calmer, as opposed to just not just whether or not somebody understands but are you really communicating in a positive way?



Do you ever wonder why Mike and I spend all these hours talking to people? Well, mostly it's because we're curious. Secondarily, it's because we'd like to share the stories of people as we learn how to become better journalists. In order to help us out we would love if you take a second and give us some feedback on your podcast channel. just pause the episode, go and write us a review. Give us as many stars as you want. We'll love to read it.



Is that a different?



Let me let me rephrase that. What is the learning approach to something like that when you are, let's just take the physician example. Right? Because you know, in a lot of times, unless you are from that place originally, you're coming back there to work in that area you a lot of times professionals and healthcare placed in places. How do you how do you bridge that gap? I mean, I know that's your area of study, what are some things that you could share with us that help the layman understand how that gap gets bridged?



Um, well, one of the things that happens is a medical school does everything in their power to train doctors how to think and speak like other people are not like other people, I'm sorry. Like, it's you now have to think like a doctor, you have to interact with one another doctor, like you are, you are no longer of the people, you are experts in this field, and you need to show that. So you have things like case presentations, where



studies have found that when they're testing interns and residents on whether or not they can present their their cases, I guess med students, when they if they can do a case presentation, it has more to do with Are you using the right language? And are you presenting it confidently, as opposed to are you actually correct.



So, so that's one aspect of it. So having crossing that divide can be anything from, I recognize that the way I'm speaking as a health care provider is not the same. And I need to change the way I speak when I'm interacting with patients.



You know, we talk when whenever anybody switched between two different languages, or two different dialects, or even different just modes of speaking, we talked about it as code switching. So it might be that you're using one set of vocabulary and grammar with, you know, the nurse or the other doctor, and then you turn to your patient, and you make sure that you're using language that that particular community, that particular person can understand. Of course,



that's hard to do. And you know what, you have to be willing to do that. And you have to be willing to be trained to do that. And depending where you practice and what you're doing, there can be a whole lot that is involved in it. And it might be that it nobody wants a doctor that comes to them and start speaking in a dialect that's not their own, right.



It's just like, Oh, I think I think you're gonna speak this way. So I'm gonna start speaking because that's just that awful. I'm so it's



sorry, was that that's a sitcom. I think about so many language train wrecks that happened with sitcoms on health care. I mean, yes. A lot. Do you remember the movie airplane? Course? Yeah. Excuse me, stewardess. I speak jive, you know? And yeah. Oh,



yeah. Okay, what is happening here? Um, you know, so things could go very wrong very quickly. But it's the idea of recognizing that that people communicate differently and being willing to talk differently, or at least, listen, seems seems like a real crucial theme today. Right? Just maybe the first step is recognition. Not Not knowing Yeah, the answers, but maybe just recognizing, you know, and maybe not trying to answer yourself and listen for a second and say about it.



On that note, though, I have another question.



All right, so I'm gonna be replaying that phrase code switching over and over, as it's just a really cool sounding term to NPR has an entire area called code switch, that's a set of podcasts? Well,



that's what I was gonna ask you and not i'm not presumptuously because I would imagine that the kind of neurological activity and behavior of people with varying linguistic abilities, and I think I'm trying to sound smart, but basically people that can bounce around from language to language or code switch very efficiently.



Can you talk at all about like the brain act, I'm not asking you to say those people are smarter than others, but is that like something that you've studied or kind of delved into at all? I haven't, there are lots of people who have um, and I mean, so the example of what you were you were you're giving on the boat of your friends talking to you and then talking. Oftentimes when people are switching between



two languages or two dialects, they don't really recommend



They do it. They just we, when we're speaking,



we go for what we think is going to be the best way to communicate.



And we tried to, there's a thing called linguistic accommodation where we, we want to speak, like the people that we're talking to even minorly. Because it shows us social connection as well. Yeah, yeah. So I mean, languages stored generally in the same place. And I'm not I don't know enough about what's going on in the brain with multiple languages. But you know, you can access it from kids, before they have any idea how to tie their shoes, they're able to switch between multiple languages perfectly without even thinking about it. And it's, it's actually better if you're really thinking about it, you know, you just automatically go back and forth.



And sometimes you have to make a decision, like if you're, if you're in a place where it's a bilingual place, but you know, that there are different attitudes associated with different ways of speaking. Do you approach somebody you don't know, and you start speaking the language that if both of you speak it, it might connect you as like the local language, but it all could come across as like, I don't think you know this well enough. So I'm going to talk to you.



You know, there's a lot morally right, yes, yes. So, I mean, there's a lot involved. Oftentimes, people switch between different languages, when they get very emotional. There's certain things that they will automatically say, in one language, or one dialect versus another. Gotcha.



I know, a couple Spanish, where it's quite well, my wife, the daughter of a Mexican woman, and they're not like, I love you. It's not No, no, no.



No, it's one of those abilities, though, that I think, you know, when you hear about someone,



and I'm thinking like Jason Bourne, but that's that's like a stupid example more like, you know, some traveling business person who isn't overly impressive, but can like hang in five different languages, to me that and that's like, maybe a fault of my own that is so exotic, and amazing to me, that I automatically placed that individual's intelligence at like, such. But I think that's because for me, there's nothing more important than being able to talk to other people. And like some prejudice of sorts, right, exactly. Like, I don't think that that that ability necessarily equates to like, that person might not be he might not know how to add, or she may know, you know, not have all that rain.



So that happens, like some people are just like, sometimes people get elected, you can imagine.



One reading is a very, very different skill.



Yeah, let's, let's let's get into that one in a second.



No, absolutely. So I there's a joke that says, What do you call somebody who speaks multiple languages? Somebody who's multilingual, what do you call somebody who only speaks one language? American? Yeah. Now no. reality. Right. So use you saying that, you know, somebody going around speaking five different languages is exotic for most of the world. That's just their daily basis, you have to speak most communities around the world speak at least two, usually three, and more languages for interacting, because you have small communities that have historically spoken languages. And as people move around, you speak with them. So that's, that's like multilingualism is actually the norm. We're weird and not speaking multiple languages normally, but it also Yeah, for us, it's, we have this idea as Americans that's like, Oh, well, you must be really smart to be able to speak multiple languages must be like a secret agent or something, you know.



And they're in and the idea of like, but you know, how do you speak five languages, but you can't read anything. Like for us there's a disconnect, but that's, that's a pretty normal, like, Girl. If you grew up in The Hague, you speak for four languages. Yeah. And like, you might not have graduated high school, but yeah, you speak four languages. Like that's just that's the and that was my experience in Toronto. Um, is, is you know, it's a it's a matter of need, right? I mean, man, a lot of people learn a whole new language just for a vacation. When you move there about 30 days in, you get tired asking for the same thing every day. Right? So you learn what the next thing is, and



it's a it's such a cool topic for me I could go on and on and on about this. I this is tied to this every day.



For the last 20 years,



and as a teacher, I pull more people into my world, I'm like, come with me, come talk to me about this, I can imagine that this is gonna be a multi part interview I talked



a little bit about, like, are asking the expert type discussions, you know, for our listeners in they've heard a couple of them now, Mike, you know, where we're taking a little bit different angle above and beyond just the interview components, but there's kind of, there's this like initiation thing that you have to go through, you have to be interviewed, before we get into the expert part. So I could do this. I know we're getting close to our hour here. But I really, if I could I want to ask one real final question. These from from my camp, which is



it's no secret to most people who are listening now that we have this time in what started in America with the world that is relative to race and brutality in, in what's going on, right. And so, this show is not about that. And, you know, we are an episodic show, meaning that we talk a lot about things that we hope could be published for years on end. And it's an autobiography, biography type of an interview that we're hoping to achieve today. But when you think about unity across the world, and you think about how language affects unity,



myopically here in the United States, relative to you know, the current exacerbation has to do with police brutality, and this ever burning, you know, very true



difference in races in the United States and difference in socio economic ways that that works out in your life, or how does language save us? Like, I don't want to make it so prophetic, but like, how, how does that help? Like how, how do we how do we, how do we become better partners to each other better tribes, as groups to other tribes to let language start to develop peace in this world?



I love this question. This was a phenomenal question.



And I do think language can save us. But I also switch it a little bit from not just language, but communication. So it's the idea of being willing to talk to people. And right now what's going on in the United States, being willing to listen, and not passively listen? actively, they call it 360 degree listening, where your brain isn't off thinking about some other stuff. And you're just kind of you're actually listening and processing and thinking through? What is this person telling me? What is this community telling me? What do I not understand? And how can I ask questions so I can understand.



So I think language can save us by giving us the ability to communicate, but really having the will to communicate and listen and process and think through and speak up. I know, I'm not as good as this as I should be. When you hear something when you hear other people say things that are untrue.



If not, false, are just on.



I don't even know the term at this point. Because words are hard.



Getting You know, when you hear something, it's not always just about correcting but having somebody like, okay, you said this, but what about if you actually think about it from the other person's perspective? Or, you know, what, if you're listening to somebody, I read something the other day that was talking about reactions to these stories that we've been hearing. And in particular, this was the issue that happened in New York City in the park, where



Amy Cooper called the police. And there was this blog post that I was reading that was talking about how all of these people were saying, Oh, well if it were me, I would be doing something else. If it were no, if I was there, I would have said something if and the blog focused on



the idea of stop making it about you stop making it about how you're experiencing it and how you feel about it. That's fine process that work with it. But stop and listen to what



the other people have or you know, all parties you know, the I can't Mr. Cooper, the guy who's I can't remember his first name. Now. That was the birdwatcher that had the police called on him. You know, look at it from his perspective and what was going on. Listen to him.



Listen to what he has to say. And listen to what he said in the video. So it's I think this is a long winded answer, and I apologize for that. But I think it's the idea of speaking up when you can, listening to one another, the idea of communication, regardless of what language that's in whatever dialect it's in, you know, find a way to understand



when we talk about people talking to folks with especially that speak stigmatized dialects, like African American English, we use this phrase



communicative burden, that sometimes as listeners, we just say, I don't understand what that person is saying. Or if it's somebody who hasn't done is non native speaker of English, I'm not going to understand what that person is saying. So I'm not going to listen, or whatever, they're not speaking in a way that I want to follow in that can be politically valid, as you know, in terms of politics, like you've used a term or you're coming from a perspective that I want, don't want. So I'm gonna stop and I'm putting the communicative burden on you to change how you speak. So it's better for me. And that's just not fair. So it's, it's taking that burden onto yourself.



I hate that you felt the need to apologize for that amazing answer. It's long winded out of need. There's there's no way to none of this is an easy, easy answer. And I, I could not even if I sat down and wrote it over and over again, have have expressed it better than you did. I mean, what I took from that actor is you don't need to speak the most important part of communication isn't what comes out of your mouth. So just shut up. And listen.



That's the that's the best place to start is just listening and, you know, compassion and greater effort on all of our parts. I that what that communicative burden, another amazing term? There's a version of it, if there's another word, or what was the other link was the other work? All right, yeah. Do



you guys have very






But how tragic is that? And you know, what's messed up is like, embarrassingly?



Well, embarrassingly, I think we all need to just get a little bit better at this, you know, 2030 years ago, growing up in suburban Michigan, it was, it was a lot more acceptable to walk around with that burden. And be like, you know, you're not from here. I don't know why you're talking like that. But you're here, you should talk like us. Like that was, that was a normal attitude from where I'm from. I'm



like, just, like, just think about think about that shit. Like, I'm sorry to use such a dumb but



because you move to your 10 years before they did, you have the right to say how people should speak when they move here. And they're seeking the same things that your family was seeking when they came here, and it's just,



ah, I'm all sweaty.



Even, even if they are speaking English, the idea of like, well, you're speaking English differently than what I'm then how I'm used to hearing it. So I need I and I'm gonna shut that down. Because I can't understand you. There's, there's this really great study from a professor that I used to work with named Donald Rubin, where he had the same voice, recorded giving a lecture. And then he played it for a group of students. But he had two different pictures. And one was a white dude, I think it was a guy I can't remember, a white person and the other was somebody from East Asia or had features from the East Asia, I should say. And not it's the exact same voice. And the students were like, Oh, I didn't understand that one person I understood. The first one or I didn't understand to the extent that when they were actually questioned, like given up like a pop quiz on the on the lecture, they actually did worse. Because they're like, Nope, I'm not gonna know this person is bad. They just they close their ears do it. And



hey, thanks for taking time to listen to Mike and I Today, I wanted to talk to you just for one second about reviewing the podcast. It really, really helps us out and it places us higher on search engines, as well as the other podcast channels that publish our show. So if you listen to conventioNOTup, you dig what you hear. Take a second go out, give us five stars, give us a few kind words or just real words, whatever the hell you want to say. out there on the review channel of your podcast show.



I feel like those are the things that we should know more about as we figure out how to bounce out of this like outrage culture, however, whatever that means to you, because that in its own right is like this incendiary term, right? Like, everybody else is outraged, or I'm outraged or whatever. But ultimately, I feel like combining your first and your answer to the first question, when you say, you know, in summary, like, Listen, stupid.



The reality is that



it's what gets communicated. And if you don't pay enough attention to what's trying to be communicated, it's quite possible that you could inform yourself incorrectly. And here are the examples. You know, I mean, not everybody will be able to maybe identify with an example of a lecture in a classroom, but most people probably would, because that is such a distinct thing that I think that almost all of us can identify, you know, when humans are frustrated, at least in my experience, and this I mean, is by what I do, is we reach for a lifeline often, to justify our frustration, and if we can clean to that Lifeline in that Lifeline is incorrect. And it doesn't really save us, right, you know, it's sometimes it occludes us too early. And I wish more people could really approach life with such an open hearted, you know, a perspective, I think that probably requires being open to them when they're young. And when they come to mic, like, like you said, when you're when you're new to the place, so that so that those occlusions don't happen.



Another good example, to have that beyond the lecture. Example is



color customer service calls or tech calls. A lot of people have that they just keep hanging up until they get somebody that quote, unquote, speaks American,



like this person will not be able to help me. Right? Right. That's a real thing like to speak American, like, what a beautiful if we could just get a name and address of everyone who ever uttered that phrase.



positively, there's a really great



healthcare communication. Okay, and so we have overseas customer service. Those listeners who know the name of my company, maybe they could do this, I'm not going to link them together this way. But our best incoming customer service English is in the Philippines. Mm hmm. So would you like, like, that's where the phone calls come in. With such English as spot on. Compassion is great. There's very little hang, there's actually, you know, hang up that you could talk about probably from the customer service end, right. And so it's the Philippines. That changes actually, at least in my the past decade that I've been working internationally. Because, especially with healthcare, like you mentioned earlier, that accent is so important, right? However,



right, wrong, or in different call centers internationally make a heck of a lot less mistakes. A lot of people think it's just about the cost. But we shouldn't typecast that, it's that those international systems, as long as you know, we're able to train them with with the right accent, quote, unquote, right? They make less mistakes, and there's use of data to back it up. I would have never like, I would have just assumed it was 100% function of cost, which is I think,



is old school ignorant kind of



presumption. It really is, um,



oh, man, I'm really, really sharing my ignorance today.



That but you know, I, like I said, I'm down to be the dude in the crowd that raises his hand and he admits like, Hey, I'm here to be better. Um, I, that's a scary notion and in today's society, but if we all just kind of try a lot harder. That's the kind of unity I don't know. It's, I think it's a lighter question. But you know, I've we've found it sometimes delves into deep, deeper parts of our brains. Um, we asked us of a lot of our guests and I think I'm really really dying to hear



your response. Doctor, we



were curious, what do you think the 1516 year old Susie would would would think of what you're up to today where your passions are and kind of, or vice versa? If you if you would rather give some advice to that teenager, you can do that. But I want you to, I want you if you can bounce between now and then.



Um, I think I think 15 year old Suzy would be surprised, but really pleased with at least with like



The work that I'm doing and where I ended up in terms of a career, the the fact that, you know, me making a couple comments about my mom's accent, and the fact that my cousin's made fun of me for using y'all. It's like, wait, you turn that into a career? Good for you. You've written books on that topic. That's awesome.



You know, I, I think I would be proud of the work that I've been able to do to get people to think about things that they haven't thought about before and think about diversity in ways that



they overlook, oftentimes, I mean, we didn't throw around the word diversity so much when I was 15, and 16. But



But I think the I think that type of thing was in the back of my mind, at that point, I was interested at 16, I was starting to get interested in the idea of travel and other languages.



When I was I think I was 16, maybe 17, when I started studying Russian,



which is what I majored in, in college, still can't speak it, but that's what I meant.



So I think the fact that I would say, Oh, you went with that, but turned it into something different, I think I would be disappointed in the fact that I can't speak Russian fluently, or I can't speak Italian, which is what my family historically speaks, that I couldn't speak anything fluently. I think, I think I'd be like, really, you've had this long, you couldn't, you couldn't have worked with that.



But yeah, I but the idea of me being a teacher and a researcher, and an academic, would have shocked the crap out of me, because I, my parents didn't go to college.



I didn't know anybody who was a professor, I had no, there was no experience that would have made me think like, oh, teaching is the right role for you. And even when I entered a graduate program, I wasn't even thinking about that. I just wanted to learn some more. So I'd be really, really surprised to know that on a regular basis, you know, sometimes daily, I get up in front of 100 people and talk about stuff. And I am perfectly happy doing that. I love doing that, actually, what could the 16 year old version of you want more, you just said your career, I get a smile on your face has only gotten bigger the variety of subjects we've covered today, it's just a, you mentioned something there that I do have to touch upon, just that you forged this past yourself. Um, and that's, it's a common theme. A lot of our guests. I mean, it's called conventioNOTthat for a reason, um, but to me just say both of my parents are educators, you know, my, my dad has his PhD in education. My mom got her master's in the 80s. Um, but they don't, they're not engineers, they don't do what I do. Um, and so I really, I love that this was completely out of nowhere. And nobody you didn't have anybody to look up to and say, Yeah, that looks okay, I'll, I'll go down that path. So, to me, you get an extra applause for



you know, going out on this limb on your own and then making it awesome. Because you I mean, you use there's no way people meet you and wonder if you're happy and in your career and in your in your life, because you



and you're in the right spot.



You know, we get to spend a lot of like, personal time together. And sometimes wine comes out and all that kind of stuff and the nature of our lives. Yeah. Right. Sometimes the nature of our,



my wife, Anna, and



Susan's husband, Jamie, we were able to share some of our observances about where we're good at each other,



with each other, not at each other. But one of the things that is always so inspirational is about the way that that continually becomes kind of like part of our conversation. I always think when when we're in these groups of couples sharing about a line or whatever that might be, and I can't help but think that that's what dictates to like, being able to open up into conversations like this today, or really the way that you do, being able to influence young minds. You know, I mean, we didn't talk a lot about that today. Because, well, there was no reason we didn't talk about it. We're learning today. But I know that that's a big part of what makes you tick is to be able to have those relationships and to follow students getting into law school and making those you know, next steps to influence the world. So I hope that someday we could get you to come back and talk a little bit more about that.



In the meantime, if I want to get a hold of you, or if there's something that I there's this kind of two questions, one, how do I kind of you know, get a hold of you in the appropriate manner. But also, if I didn't want



Get a hold of you. But I want to learn about a career, whether that be in linguistics or as an educator, where would I go? And then I'll wrap us up however we do that, but this is this has really been one of our better interviews. I really appreciate this today. Thanks. I've had so much fun with this. Thank you so much. I'm so my full contact information is through the Emory University website, the linguistics program there and anybody can always reach out to me, send me an email is probably the best way to do it. And I'm happy to answer any questions that people have. There are a ton of resources out there about linguistics and about careers in linguistics. I like to point people to the linguistics Society of America, their website, especially folks that are starting school and thinking that they might be interested in studying linguistics, there's an entire area of wide major in linguistics, or what kind of fields can I work in? If I study linguistics? The short answer is everything. Like it applies everywhere, you can apply linguistics to every single career.



And so they have a lot of resources. There's also some really good books that are out there. There's one called the five minute linguist, and that I just started reading, and it's really, really short vignettes. And there's some videos that are out there that go along with it, of just like some of the key questions that people might have about language. So if anybody's just interested in like, really, really short ways of learning a little bit about language or the types of questions you can ask about language, it's a good book that I recommend. And



what about the ones you wrote? I mean, are those those worth recommending? Well, my textbook linguist language and linguistic diversity in the United States, 2015 by Rutledge



that we're working on the second edition, so that is available and it is online.



And it ends I have a new book called linguistic plants of belief, which talks about p southerners views about dialectal differences in the United States and about views about



man coming out. So that's coming out in October. It was supposed to come out this month, but it's been postponed. I was pulled on to this project with Paulina bounce and Jennifer Kramer some wonderful, amazingly bright women. But yeah, so linguistic planets of belief comes out in October. Okay, yeah, that that's why I'm excited for that October. That's my birthday month so anything going on in October it's gonna be great. It's gonna be well and right now more more to come upon this and I'm gonna be probably relatively certain that YouTube will meet face to face but Mike and I are talking about a South East trip in the month of September in which we will go throughout the southeast as Damn Yankees and experience the world. Everyone can hear us talk time. Yeah, yeah, Kara's






Yeah, can I plug one more thing before we go just because of what our was talking about with what's happening in the us right now. We went to the North Carolina, North Carolina language and Life Project has just come out or not just come out last year came out with a documentary called talking black in America.



And you can look it up online talking black in America was talking Black But I can't remember. It is a beautiful hour long video documentary that interviews people and talks about what black languages in the United States and its history and its development in the social views that go along with listening and being a speaker of it. And for anybody that is thinking about



how to listen and how to communicate. It's a beautiful time to watch this video. Okay, thank you. I



will share that right away. Thank you. Yeah, we started by Well, well, it's really been a pleasure. I'm almost sad to hear it go to an end or at least better less listeners are but there will be more. I would love to have a Ask me anything about writing a textbook. I feel like that could be something that would be really really cool to be focused on. From from an expertise perspective. I'm good at telling people how not to write a textbook because exactly the process that I went through all the obstacles you trip down along the way right. I always thought that parenthesis tell the story anyways on the inside, right. So maybe maybe you could help set those bumpers on the outside. So just to close us down. If this is your first time listening to us if you found your way to us through Dr. Tamasi. We are conventioNOTnot and we promote ourselves through



Are interviewees and our guests and so on and so forth. So please take a second there are countless interviews out there that aren't similar to Susan's, but they are different. You will find many, many, many different types of careers, many, many different pursuits of happiness



with all of the diversity that we're talking about today, and different types of advice, and so on and so forth. So please take a second get out there, follow us on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or anywhere that you might go. We'd love to have you follow there. And we appreciate you listening today.



Thanks, doctor. Thank you guys. So much.