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Tuesday, December 12

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Chicago Speaks Mon Dec 22 2014

Chicago Speaks: American Sign Language, as Signed by Poet and Storyteller Peter Cook

Chicago SpeaksAs a global city, Chicago is home to many languages besides English. Chicago Speaks profiles speakers of these languages, and shares some of their personal stories along the way.

As a student at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Peter Cook was a graphic design major who wrote poetry on the side, composing his poems in English and translating them into American Sign Language. Then, in 1984, he attended a poetry workshop Allen Ginsberg gave at the school with the Deaf poet Robert Panara.

"Allen was reading from Howl, and there was a sign language interpreter," Cook recounts. "He got to the words 'hydrogen jukebox' and he stopped."

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Megan Marz

Chicago Speaks Tue Sep 23 2014

Chicago Speaks: Comorian, as Spoken by Charif Hachim, Honorary Consul General of Comoros in Chicago

Chicago SpeaksAs a global city, Chicago is home to many languages besides English. Chicago Speaks profiles speakers of these languages, and shares some of their personal stories along the way.

Charif Hachim's home, where he lives with his wife and three children, might be the only one in Chicago where people speak Comorian. Comorian? It's the language of Comoros, a group of islands located in the channel between Mozambique and Madagascar.

Hachim knows of only one other local Comorian family, and they live in the suburbs. He would know best. He has lived in Chicago for more than two decades and since last year has been the honorary consul general of Comoros in Chicago.

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Megan Marz

Chicago Speaks Tue Aug 12 2014

Chicago Speaks: Bengali, as Spoken by Feryall Rahman

Chicago SpeaksAs a global city, Chicago is home to many languages besides English. Chicago Speaks profiles speakers of these languages, and shares some of their personal stories along the way.

The structural engineer Fazlur Khan is known for his work on the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower, where a sculpture depicting his face greets visitors to the Skydeck. But Khan, perhaps the best known Bangladeshi Chicagoan, bequeathed more than buildings to his adopted city.

In 1980, shortly before his death, he founded a community organization called the Bangladesh Association of Chicagoland. In 2012, Feryall Rahman decided to join it. "I was like, 'Oh, if Fazlur Rahman Khan started this, I'm going to go see what this is about,'" she says.

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Megan Marz

Chicago Speaks Mon Jul 21 2014

Chicago Speaks: Icelandic, as Spoken by Recruiter Lena Hallgrimsdottir

Chicago SpeaksAs a global city, Chicago is home to many languages besides English. Chicago Speaks profiles speakers of these languages, and shares some of their personal stories along the way.

When I met Lena Hallgrimsdottir at the Whole Foods in Lincoln Park, I asked her what it was like to have a native language shared by some 300,000 of the world's inhabitants -- fewer people, perhaps, than would visit that Whole Foods location over the next couple of months.

"We always look at it almost as our secret language," she says. "We're very careless. If we were walking around here, we would just be speaking about whatever, without ever worrying that anyone understands."

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Megan Marz

Chicago Speaks Mon Jun 16 2014

Chicago Speaks: Portuguese, as Spoken by Film Series Founder Ariani Friedl

chicagospeaks.jpgAs a global city, Chicago is home to many languages besides English. Chicago Speaks profiles speakers of these languages, and shares some of their personal stories along the way.

If you were to hang out with Ariani Friedl, you probably would learn at least one Portuguese word even if you communicated entirely in English. "Mostra," which means "show," is the name of the Brazilian "film series" she founded in Chicago four years ago — a name she chose for both its aptness and its catchiness.

"Mostra became part of their vocabulary very quickly," she says of her American colleagues. Her ambition for Mostra, though, goes beyond the slight expansion of our lexicon.

"The majority of Americans think of Brazil as samba, [soccer] and bikinis," explains Friedl, who in 1964 moved to Chicago as a newlywed from the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. "And all this is part of our culture, but that's not it."

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Megan Marz / Comments (3)

Chicago Speaks Mon May 19 2014

Chicago Speaks: Ukrainian, as Spoken by Ukrainian Catholic Priest Ihor Koshyk

chicagospeaks.jpgAs a global city, Chicago is home to many languages besides English. Chicago Speaks profiles speakers of these languages, and shares some of their personal stories along the way.

Twenty-nine minutes into my interview with Ihor Koshyk, a priest at Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in West Town, I asked him a question about "the Ukraine."

I had learned -- too recently to master my reflex -- that the English speaker's tendency to insert "the" before "Ukraine" was factually and politically incorrect.

So when I heard the definite article coming out of my mouth, I stopped, rephrased and hoped Koshyk hadn't noticed my slip-up. He had, of course. About 45 minutes later, as we prepared to go our separate ways, he mentioned it. "But you caught yourself," he said genially.

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Megan Marz

Chicago Speaks Mon Apr 21 2014

Chicago Speaks: Yoruba, as Spoken by Artist Dayo Laoye

chicagospeaks.jpgAs a global city, Chicago is home to many languages besides English. Chicago Speaks profiles speakers of these languages, and shares some of their personal stories along the way.

As a young painter in Nigeria in the 1980s, Dayo Laoye favored what he describes as an impressionistic, "c├ęzannesque" style. Then, a month before his 29th birthday, he came to the United States to study at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The move shifted his artistic focus.

"The faculty at Howard," he says, "emphasized that I should draw on my ancestry." That's what the 55-year-old artist has been doing for the past 26 years, 24 of which he's spent working out of his studio in Hyde Park.

Laoye is Yoruba. As such, he belongs to an ethnolinguistic group of more than 35 million people who for the most part live in southwestern Nigeria and the nearby countries Benin and Togo.

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Megan Marz

GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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