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M. Kalaj by Mind Map: M. Kalaj

1. Self + Family

1.1. "I am first-generation Albanian American!"

1.2. Melissa was born 21 years ago in Michigan and lived there for six years before her family moved to New York. Both states have very sizable Albanian populations. She loves music and animals--especially cats; she has rescued a few from the streets, nursing them and finding them better homes.

1.3. "My dad is from a district called Malesia e Madhe.

1.3.1. Her dad is from a farm in a mountainous area that was very traditional, they didn't even have widespread electricity. There weren't any stores nearby, so they lived off of the crops and stock they raised.

1.3.2. My favorite family tradition is celebrating St. Marks Day. Every region of the district that my father is from has a different saint day they celebrate, and that's ours. All of our family would gather to eat and drink and laugh all night; it's probably the most beautiful for me as it defines "togetherness", personally.

1.3.2.1. The Feast of St. Marks is on April 25th, around the Catholic world, many gather for boundless amounts of food and celebration. Here is a list of a few Albanian foods to try! 11 Delicious Food to Try in Albania

1.4. "My mother is from a city called Shkoder"

1.4.1. Her mom had a different, city upbringing--living in an apartment building with access to "urban" resources.

1.5. Most Important Family Values: Education, honesty, happiness, hard work

1.6. A lot of Albanians where she lives are Muslim, but Melissa's family is Catholic. As a child, she thought being Catholic was an "Albanian thing". Consequently, she went to an American Catholic high school.

2. Culture

2.1. Albanian

2.1.1. First 5 things that come to mind when hearing "Albanian Culture"

2.1.1.1. War - There have been countless wars and battles fought that she never heard the end of while growing up. The above picture basically says Secondary Military School Reserves, her father is in the bottom row.

2.1.1.2. The Mediterranean Sea - These beaches are Europe's best kept secret!

2.1.1.3. Loyalty - Albanians value this to an extreme; this can be a negative or positive at times.

2.1.1.4. Nostalgia - My most fond memories come from spending summers in Albania, it makes me wish to go back to my childhood there every time

2.1.1.5. Backwards - As much as I love my culture, there's so many aspects that need to be updated. People are just too stuck in their ways.

2.1.1.5.1. It relates to what I said before about loyalty to a fault--nationalists are convinced that Albanians are "pure" people and relationships outside of the culture lead to children that "cheapen" the bloodline

2.1.1.5.2. Albanians are very prideful, even annoyingly so! They would want my head on a stick if they read this!!

2.1.1.5.3. There is a divide between Catholic Albanians and Muslim Albanians, where bigots of each group really have distaste for the other. The country was formerly under Communist rule, not allowing religion at all. There is a sizeable Jewish community in the nation, though, as Albanian offered many refuge during the Holocaust.

2.2. American

2.2.1. "I live in the Bronx! The demographics of my neighborhood I'd say...are broadly Black, Latinx, and Albanian. Us Albanians are really the only white people around this area"

2.2.1.1. Here is a news clip from a local Bronx station that covered a story of the Albanian American Society promoting and sharing their culture Albanians keep culture alive in the Bronx

2.2.1.2. There was also a flag-raising to commemorate the 106th year of independence for Albania – First Albanian Flag-Raising in the BronxFirst Albanian Flag-Raising in the Bronx – Voices of NY

2.3. She considers herself to be of the lower middle class.

3. Education

3.1. Melissa and her mother have an associates degree, while her father has obtained a masters.

3.1.1. "The [Albanian] educational system is extremely corrupt and diplomas are only available to people who are able to pay for them/bribe professors for grades. Some people make it through to get their high school diploma, if that."

3.2. She attended a public elementary school, private middle school, and Catholic high school.

3.3. In school, she was able to serve as a translator for students just immigrating from Albania

3.3.1. While there is a lot of diversity in New York, the PS system there could benefit well from "culturally sustained pedagogies" mentioned by Rosa and Flores. They would then be better prepared to assist students in need and determine the difference between those that many not be culturally acclimated, like a newly immigrated child, and those who happen to be multicultural, like Melissa, an Albanian-American. Both of these children stand to be subjected to a disservice by the public system.

3.3.2. Rosa, J., & Flores, N. (n.d.). Do You Hear What I Hear? Raciolinguist Ideologies and Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies. In H. Alim & D. Paris (Authors), Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies (pp. 175-196). New York: Teachers College Press.

4. Language

4.1. Albanian is an Indo-European language that isn't near in relation to any other language in Europe. It grew from ancient Illyrian, as Albania is centrally located when the Illyrian tribes lived.

4.2. Melissa learned Albanian and English at the same time, both are her native tongues.

4.2.1. Because she spoke Albanian fluently, her elementary school officials incorrectly coded her as an ESL student.

4.2.2. Her dialect of the Albanian language (Geg) is considered to be rural and lower-class. It's spoken in the northern-most parts of the country.

4.2.2.1. People in Albania like to speak the dialect from the central region (Tosk) because it is considered to be the most "professional" as the "official" dialect of the country. They can understand each other just fine, though.

4.2.2.1.1. Despite this distinction that we all usually play with, Melissa is aware of the "lowered status" of her dialect but does not feel the need to code-switch in any situation. This can be seen as a privilege compared to other groups that do deem it necessary.

4.2.2.1.2. This may show a difference in ethnolinguistic relation, as there is a mentioned, "necessary" fluidity for some groups as mentioned in Alim (2016) when discussing Roth-Gordon's analysis of the linguistic practices of Brazilian youth in different situations. Alim, H. (2016). Introducing Raciolinguistics: Racing Language and Languageing Race in Hyperracial Times. In Raciolinguistics: How Language Shapes Our Ideas About Race (p. 8). Oxford Scholarship. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190625696.001.0001

4.2.3. She speaks English here and her parents will respond to her in Albanian. Back home, she has to speak Albanian with her family and will find herself forgetting familiar English words.

4.2.3.1. I believe her parents may have been told that they could help Melissa and her siblings by speaking English at home, when she was mistakenly put into ESL classes. The article "It's Not My Job" notes how teachers express concern for students whose home language is their heritage language, as if that hinders the child more than the same instructors' inability to accept dual cultures. Lee, J. S., & Oxelson, E. (2006). “Its Not My Job”: K–12 Teacher Attitudes Toward Students Heritage Language Maintenance. Bilingual Research Journal, 30(2), 453-477. doi:10.1080/15235882.2006.10162885

4.3. Her English accent is strongly marked by her living in New York City, specifically in the Bronx borough.

5. Discourse Analysis

5.1. I will be using this section to analyze contextualization resources from conversations with Melissa.

5.1.1. Rymes, B. (2008). Analyzing Contextualization Resources. In Analyzing Discourse Analysis (pp. 193-231). New York, NY: Hampton Press.

5.2. As she has a strong New York accent, hearing her speak already starts to form assumptions of how she may be as a person. Like her voice, she is indeed strong--a mix of confidence and intelligence to back her words. Her variety of English is regional and ethnic, dotted with slang and phrasings commonly attributed to the black and brown youth of New York. Considering the self-reported demographics of her surroundings, this is very on-par.

5.2.1. This variety combined with her appearance, as a young White woman, can give a front of lacking authenticity when her urban upbringing is not considered.

5.2.2. "Out of all five boroughs, The Bronx has the lowest number and percentage of white residents." Those that aren't classified as Hispanic are largely Italian, Irish, and Albanian. Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). (2010, October 05). American FactFinder. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from American FactFinder

5.3. Rhymes mentioned the way a native language can affect our second, notably carrying the intonation and sounds from one language over to English. Melissa's English does not sound "affected" for lack of a better term, and I can not pick up the differences between dialects of Albanian speech she shared.

5.4. She stays within a casual register, in my opinion. There are layers of casual, where one is just talking comfortably, then a deeper casual that brings out more "sayings" and a willingness to elaborate without asking. She also makes a point of maintaining eye contact with someone when she's speaking, almost intimidatingly so. When she speaks about something she's excited about, there is a noticeable pick up in speed and minor gesticulation. To others, this could also be misread as nervousness or anger if the context of the conversation was not known.