Cartas de América #4: teaching culture with the Nacirema

I like this lesson not just because it brings out the creativity in my students, or because it gives us all a laugh, but because it makes us ask a really important question about “cultural learning.” What’s it for? I used the Nacirema article to criticize the Maya one, urging students to de-exoticize their readingContinue reading “Cartas de América #4: teaching culture with the Nacirema”


One of the very first things I learned in Quechua was paqarinkama, which means “see you tomorrow,” one of those words you pick up when memorizing initial dialogues that is encoded as a phrase of itself and filed away without further understanding. But that was months ago, and as I’ve gone on, I’ve begun toContinue reading “paqarinkama”

today in language is never just grammar

1. In Quechua there is no naturally occurring word for “to have, to possess,” so when the Spanish came and introduced money, they had to mangle their word for “to be” into a possessive. DO YOU EVER METAPHOR SO HARD 2. There is a specific word in Quechua for men with large beards (chhapu), whichContinue reading “today in language is never just grammar”

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