Sociolinguistics Series: Part 11

Sociolinguistics Series: Part 11

Language is a powerful tool.
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In light of the holiday spirit, I thought that we should dedicate this installment of the Sociolinguistics Series to the language of festivities.

I’ll begin by introducing the idea of the Critical Discourse Analysis, which approaches language as a form of social practice. Simply put, the power in a society is established and reinforced by the language use of that society’s members. CDA looks at how language affects the flow and distribution of power in a social hierarchy.

Whether you are traveling across the world or having a staycation, the Critical Discourse Analysis applies to the society you’ll find yourself in. Like the study done by Labov that I discussed in a previous section, people on different rungs of the social ladder speak accordingly. It’s not only with pronouncing the “r” sound in “fourth” and “floor,” though. The language one speaks includes the physical sounds as well as the content found in the dialogue.

For example, at camp this summer, one of my roommates did a study on different Korean dialects found in TV shows and dramas across the Korean Peninsula. She noticed that very few characters spoke with a certain stigmatized accent, and that the only characters who spoke it were people on the lower end of the social scale. These characters included servants and tour guides who only spoke about certain factual events and statistics for the purpose of entertaining the main character (who spoke in the standard Korean accent).

This pattern carries out from behind the scenes and far beyond the television screen. A little over a decade ago, a study was conducted by a team of four researchers at Cardiff University; Adam Jaworski, Virpi YlaÈnne-McEwen, Crispin Thurlow, and Sarah Lawson analyzed the language use of people in holiday programs broadcasted on television to see if they could find a correlation between social roles and speech patterns of the people in these programs. Specifically, they wanted to look at the interactions between a “host” figure and a “tourist” one--basically, whether or not locals (hosts) spoke in a certain way to the visiting tourists.

Between BBC and ITV, the researchers looked at a total of 28 different program clips recorded between 2000 and 2001. These holiday programs included the documentation of trips to many vacation hotspots, such as the Caribbean, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Hong Kong, Maldives, Australia, Dubai in the UAE, Mexico, Thailand, and more. The programs mainly followed the trips of people of Caucasian descent, so the “tourists” in this case were Americans and European (mainly English) people.

The team devised three categories of hosts, or the “local people” of the destinations: Servant/Helper, Expert/Guide, and Other. The Servants included waiters, cooks, receptionists, and the like. The Experts were people like skiing instructors, distillery guides, and park rangers. The Other category consisted of people considered “peoplescape,” or the ones that added to the “natural scene” or “landscape” of the vacation, such as local business owners and shopkeepers in the street.

The programs depicted the destinations as a whole, so they included the local “hosts” as well as the physical and material attractions about a place. The Cardiff researchers looked at each segment with host interaction, specifically focusing on the content and style of their language use.

They found that regardless of whether the host was an Expert/Guide or a Servant/Helper, the bulk of his or her speeches were made of factual information intended only for the benefit of the tourist. Many times, the hosts are ignored completely and regarded as part of the background or landscape; in these cases, the tourists do the talking in opinionated sentences that contrast the factual ones presented by talkative hosts.

Though predictable, it is important to note that hosts use the words “Sir” and “Ma’am” consistently in their speech, while tourists rarely use such address terms at all. This most likely falls under the job descriptions of many hosts, but it still adds to the idea that hosts appear subservient to tourists.

In interactions where hosts speak in the native language and the tourist is unable to respond with more than a few simple phrases, the hosts are painted to look even more like part of the background. The video programs will use effects to incorporate these host-tourist interactions into the so-called “peoplescape” by letting them blend in with panning shots of the actual (natural) landscape.

These types of depictions are what contribute to the social stigmas and images that surround the local hosts of a destination. It helps tourists maintain power over the natives and create a very strange social hierarchy.

This analysis is far from over, as we have only covered the content of language by hosts and tourists. Stay tuned for next week, where we will be looking at language style and grammar of these tourist-host interactions!

Cover Image Credit: Irene Yi

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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

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Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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Time is Finite

Watch the clock.

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I obsess over time. I have always planned schedules, made up routines, and calculated where and when I'll be at certain times, no matter how far into the future. During the course of my day, I figure out what tomorrow will be like and what events will occur. I think of all the things that will eventually happen and even the possibilities or unexpected occurrences. No matter what happens, I have at least an inkling of what my time-frame is to complete specific tasks. I know what will come and when.

Even in a class, I keep my eye on the clock. My mind may drift off into my own "schedule land," in which I think of the rest of the day. Who will I eat with? When should I go to sleep? How much work will I get done? All of these questions and more pop up in my head, and it can be overwhelming, and yet, I find it to be extremely useful at the same time. Yes, I may cause a headache or two from my over-analytical tendencies, but at least I have an idea, a prediction, an expectation of what I will do next or where I will go. It heightens my motivation; it gives me more determination in order to succeed and complete my day in a productive manner.

My obsession, and yes I call it that, may seem anxiety-ridden or even psychotic, but my thoughts about time focus on how much I have yet to do even if I have done so much up to this point. While I acknowledge my prior experiences, accomplishments, and even failures, I still have so much more I have to do. This is not a matter of wanting either. This is a need, a necessity. The problem is that time is finite.

I cannot control the speed of time, no one can, but I and everyone else can utilize it while we have it. This, in effect, will allow us some sort of manipulation over the passing of time in our own individual lives. If you have a goal, whether big or small, it can be reached simply by you acting on it now. Develop a mini plan based around the events that might happen, and make sure there are certain "checkpoints" to attain. Think about how much time will be used in between each checkpoint, accounting for successes and downfalls as well. Once you frame your work, you can start, and start immediately. There is nothing worse than an improper, late, inaccurate schedule or conception of time. You have all of these goals and events listed and ready to go, so start now while you have the most time to do it all because if you miss something, you'll regret it.

I don't mean to scare you, but this is the reality of life. We live in a finite world: surrounded by finite things and people and opportunities. We can stop whatever we're doing, but time will never cease, so while it is still progressing and while the earth is still rotating, we need to do what we have to in order to get to the point of happiness and personal acceptance with our lives and our successes. Stay alert, and keep watch of the clock because every tick and tock and pendulum swing matters.

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https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-silver-colored-pocket-watch-lot-selective-focus-photo-859895/

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