LA’s Linguistic Landscape

Sep. 20

The only way to escape the overwhelming power of one’s own language is to live in a metropolis, to live in a neighborhood of another’s language. As I sit and read, surrounded by conversation in Arabic and Spanish music blasting from my neighbors window, I feel focused and undistracted.

Hip-hop is the worst in that ever passing car calls my attention to the lyrics, the declarative and sometimes dialogical nature speaks to me, pierces through the city of sounds like my mother’s face in a crowded airport terminal. I have to actively listen to understand Spanish so even if it calls to me more than Arabic, I still feel an ambivalent sense of comfort and distance. The power of language in advertisements or in passing conversations speaks to overwhelming cognitive use and general time spent interpreting, analyzing, and searching for words. Only when riding my bicycle do I feel attuned to my other senses, but even then my experience is mediated by my iPod headphones turned low to hear the traffic. How to escape language and experience the words as pure sensations can only be found in exploring the domains of others.