23 August 2011

language, theory, and the uncertainty that plagues me

Tonight I was staring at registration for fall courses and when I finally registered for one, I dropped it three minutes later.

I'm required to take the thesis continuation. I know that; it's not a problem. Ideally, I want to finish writing the dratted thing this semester (yes, I love my topic, but I've been thinking about it and making notes for a year, and now I only have a lousy six pages drafted...62-ish to go, because I'm such a procrastinator--I'd wanted to have something like 40 pages written over the summer, which was totally doable, and didn't happen). But I feel sick at the thought of taking another course from the applied stream to fill up my degree requirements. I signed up for the one course that I can take, and then dropped it. What is it with me and classes not from my stream?

Last year, I took a course that I'd never intended to take, simply because it was available and happened to be one of the few classes I could take, and while I did learn some useful things, I intensely disliked most of the course.

Maybe it's just that which is colouring my view, or it could be my preference for analytical linguistics, rather than applied linguistics.

It makes me want to laugh at my eighteen-year-old self, who, when embarking upon her BA, saw non-applied linguistics as "useless" and theory as "boring." She never realized that she'd be specializing in analytical linguistics, and would develop a love for theory. She never thought that the applied branches would turn out to not be as interesting to her as she'd believed they would be (and the one branch that she's beginning to investigate isn't really something she'd thought much about back then, and she still isn't entirely sure about it).

I still feel that theory needs to be sensitive to the realities of language--if it can't be used in understanding real language use, I think that makes it problematic--but it's far from useless. And it's beautiful. An elegant theory is unique in the kind of beauty it creates. Sure, some of them make my head hurt, but what I love is how each one seems to point out interesting aspects of language.

Last spring I started to realize just how interesting semantics can be. It used to be one of the branches of language that made me want to pull my hair out. Some semantic theories still make me want to do that, because they so obviously don't get it, but it's far more intriguing than I'd originally thought.

I want to do a directed study in semantics this fall, but I have no idea if I'll get to. Part of me is beginning to feel desperate about it, because otherwise I'll end up stuck in a course where the focus is more on the Bible translation thing, and less on the linguistics. Not that I think Bible translation is bad (as a Christian, I definitely can't say that). That was my original goal when I ended up at this school. A lot's changed, though.

I'm certain God drew me to linguistics for a reason, but my heart seems to be more with teaching it than with translating the Bible. Let's face it, everything I'm half-way decent at seems to be more in theory and analysis than anything else. I really enjoy getting up and talking about language, or just playing around with language and theory. Greek class? It was okay, but I was always forgetting to do my translation before class, translating on the spur of the moment, and then getting told that my translations were too free (which I still argue is a legitimate translation style).

Add to that God telling me to let go of the mission thing for now and giving me an okay to pursue writing more than I have in the last few years, and I'm sitting here looking at a very different path than the one I envisioned even just four years ago. It's a path I'm okay with, even if it's a little scary.

A part of me has been thinking lately that, once upon a time, it might have been easier to throw myself into the mission and make that the focus, than it would be to really evaluate the whispers I've been hearing for years, the ones that suggest that traditional missions work isn't for us, and that maybe we're supposed to be elsewhere than living overseas somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Those whispers say that my longings and my doubts are there for a reason. That I started writing over ten years ago for a reason. That J. and I are part of our church community for a reason, part of our group of friends for a reason.

So that's where I am now. Evaluating the whispers. I have a few answers. Not many, but I don't need many right now.

02 August 2011

sweater stories

When I learned how to knit, I envisioned myself knitting amazing sweaters that would astound people. The reality was that it took me a while. My first attempt at outerwear resulted in the red vest of shame, which lives a secret life in the bottom of a box. I won't even frog it, because that would be to acknowledge it. The second red vest just didn't fit well, although it looked good by itself. It's waiting to become another red vest. I just haven't had the courage to re-knit it using a different pattern (seeing a trend with red vests?).

So instead, I knit a different sweater. A green one. In seed stitch. Unfortunately, seed stitch stretches. A lot. I should have used smaller needles. The resulting sweater is okay, but not great.

Sweater number three is blue. I love it, I think it's great. It's also very, very warm. And a little too big in one shoulder, so it's a tad lopsided. Other than that, it's much better. People think it looks good, but it still doesn't have the polished look it does in the picture on the pattern page.

The fourth sweater was a sleeveless top/vest. I wear it a lot, more as a vest than as a top. Waist-shaping is a fantastic thing.

The next sweater was black. It ended up a little shorter than I'd hoped, but otherwise, it's not bad. Also very warm. Angora=winter sweater.

There was a sleeveless brown sweater that got knitted up over the winter, and sadly, it's not a terrific sweater, either. The yarn just wasn't the best choice. I don't wear it often. That'll teach me to knit sweaters from super-bulky yarns.

This one is the most recent complete sweater. There's another in progress which I plan to finish this next month, but that'll be a different post. My Adriatic Cardi has turned out well. I can wear it, it's comfortable, it's not too warm or too short, and kettle-dyeing it has added another layer of interest to the sweater. It doesn't look like I might need shoulder pads (blue sweater--but I refuse to use shoulder pads). The sleeves are too long, due to some stuff with the pattern repeat, but that's what the cuffs are for. They fold back.
I've finally hit that "cool sweater" moment. I got comments on it at the library when I was checking out books last week. One of the exciting parts for me is that I knit it in less than a month, which is unheard of.

This month will mostly be a month of finishing things--there's another sweater to finish, a scarf that'll be a gift for someone (still don't know who yet), and some socks. I'm looking forward to it.