Would that be alright with you if I bring my cat along

 

With this video, Zdjelar follows an integration class in the Netherlands, showing a group of adult immigrants in the process of obtaining a new language/culture. Over the course of the video a gap opens up between the act of vocalization and the communication of a message. The students are not engaged in translating their thoughts into a newly acquired vocabulary, not even in reproducing the meanings and values inscribed in the standard sentences they have to repeat. Instead, they inhabit a zone where language is not yet communication and does not yet denote anything. The ‘voice’ that we hear is therefore not a speaking, nor a silent voice, but a liminal one that hovers between the physical act of speaking and the social process of receiving. The language exercises seem to evolve not only around specific turns of phrase but focus especially on practicing proper intonation, which, swinging from politeness, irritation or authority, seems to put the non-native speaker in a subtle yet persistent way in a specific social position. This acoustic domain of prosody – where signification is found in the grain of the voice, in the pitch, melody, rhythm and fluctuation of loudness within speech rather than in the meaning of the words that are being spoken – describes the ‘parapoetics’ of language and politics of the spoken word that Zdjelar is interested in.

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