This story was published in 2007 for FastWeb, an online education resource and scholarship search engine.
The good and bad things of life lie on a spectrum. At the top: scoring the winning goal in a hockey game, baking a perfect soufflé, giving someone a gift they’ve been secretly yearning for. At the bottom: kicking puppies, Gwen Stefani’s new CD, genocide.
But below that, much farther down, comes one thing more evil than even Gwen’s misguided attempts at musicality …
The study of linguistics.
I’d allow you a moment to relieve the chill that has settled in your soul at my mention of this foul-breathed thing, but at 600 words a column, I haven’t got time for pauses. We must go on.
“Going on” is the theme for this week’s chat. More specifically, how to do it. I’m in my last semester of college and taking 20 credits. For those of you not yet in college or those of you too far past it to remember, the usual limit is 17 credits per semester, meaning I had to get special permission to do this to myself. I hadn’t planned to take this many, but there were classes I wanted to experience and, well, this is my last chance.
You might have guessed, but linguistics was not one of the classes I wanted to experience. In fact, I’m seriously considering paying someone else to experience it for me. Someone I really don’t like. (Gwen Stefani?)
My problem is all because of foresight. Taking one linguistics course is a requirement for my Anthropology major; I tried taking the class twice before, but each time the experience was so painful, I withdrew while I could still drop the class. I decided to take linguistics my final semester, so if I was as terribly untalented as I imagined, a poor grade wouldn’t hurt my GPA and chances at getting into graduate school. I was under the impression that I was being smart.
Oh, cruel folly! How mistaken I was. Now I’m faced with the situation that I’m in a class I need to graduate, I have a higher workload than I’ve ever had before, and if I can’t get myself together, there are serious consequences. I’m, like a dinosaur in a tar pit, stuck.
You might be wondering why this class is so hard. The answer is — I just haven’t got the head for linguistics. It takes me a very long time to understand the readings we do for homework. The whole subject seems ridiculous in its expectations. When I received a C+ on a paper that asked me to analyze the internal inconsistencies of the Hungarian language – a lingo I’ve never heard, seen or spoken – I emitted a “Hallelujah!” that must have set the heavens ringing.
But back to the point. It’s helpful to know I don’t have to ace the class. I just have to get a C to receive credit. This is nice, but when it’s Sunday afternoon and I have to sit down to 400 pages of inverted sentences and lexicological diagrams, it’s enough to make me want to cry. The only solution to my problem – and to similar problems you might have — is to tough it out. There are only 18 linguistics class periods left (you better believe I’ve counted) and I’m a smart person. I am bright enough to make sense of what these dusty linguists have to say. I will get through this.
With a C+, if I’m lucky.