Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Grammar, Identity and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive with Phuc Tran


Imagine life without WHAT IF...

Phuc Tran was a child refugee from the Vietnam War, moving with his family to Pennsylvania in 1975. He now lives in Maine, where he teaches Latin and works as a tattoo artist too. Phuc is one of the most interesting and articulate people I've ever known. He's also modest. I've only just learned of his TEDx talk in which he shared his experience of immigration and assimilation. In the clip below Phuc explains how living without the subjunctive tense can change the way you approach life.

"The subjunctive allows us to be creative, but it also allows us to become mired in regret." - Phuc Tran

The talk is 14 minutes long so pour yourself a cup of tea. Be careful not to choke on laughter.

10 comments:

tina said...

What a super speaker. And to think he was a refugee from Vietnam! I remember my family sponsoring a Vietnamese family in the 70s. Wow is all I can say for his achievements. Funny and smart.

A Cuban In London said...

Brilliant. I really dig his sense of humour. Many thanks for the clip. I'd actually heard his name mentioned some time ago but I can't even remember the context.

Thanks for your comment on my blog. Isn't that music glorious? Ever since I signed up to that French music channel on youtube I've discovered some really good gems! :-)

Greetings from London.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

What a delight! I feel like I got new perspective into language, culture and psychology. Thanks so much for posting this.

troutbirder said...

Most interesting. And insightful. As a teenager I learned to temper my language and words to fit in with the crowd. Must have been more literate and subjective then. Now in old age they call me Mr. Indicative...:)

Sarah Laurence said...

Tina, how wonderful to hear that your family sponsored a Vietnamese family!

ACIL, with all the languages you speak, I thought you'd love this clip.

Tricia, I thought as a writer, you'd appreciate this personal take on grammar.

troutbirder, so we become more indicative as we age. Interesting.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

What an inspiring individual!! I now want to learn more about Phuc Tran

Amanda said...

fascinating. perhaps only from the perspective of someone who is not a native speaker could come this level of insight and awareness into language. the fact that there is no subjunctive in vietnamese reminded me that tensing in mandarin is done by adding the words "tomorrow" and "yesterday" to the present tense.

David Cranmer said...

Thank you for introducing me to Phuc Tran, Sarah.

Petra said...

Sarah, I'm wowed with Phuc Tran's reflection and openness and love the humour. The Dark Lord versus Yoda example is really funny and enlightening, but when I get back to the beginning of the speech, I need to highlight the following words: "I'm here to talk about how grammar is a tool to be used like a pair of glasses and when it's used at the right time, it can bring the world into sharp focus and when it's used at the wrong time, it can make things incredibly blurry." It has never occured to me to think about a language this way! Thank you for sharing this wonderful video from the bottom of my heart. :)

Peggy said...

If the lack of subjunctive meant his family couldn't think about alternate realities, how were they able to think that if they left Vietnam their lives would be better? The sentiment of living in the moment is lovely, but the grammar of Vietnamese is unlikely to be the reason. What he describes is the reaction of refugees around the world who try to put horror and suffering behind them.