Coming from the US, where university admissions are decided based upon which student has the most insane extra-curricular activity roster, I had been warned that things would be different in Singapore; students would only be interested in their grades and what would be on the final exam. Of course, as anyone at NUS knows, this is far from true. Every week I have students missing class to go to rehearsals and practices. Our corridors are filled with posters for student events, student groups selling snacks for fundraising, and, at certain times of year, clusters of students wearing matching T-shirts running around wildly, playing mysterious orientation games. NUS students are a generally enthusiastic bunch, whether it’s classes or activities. And, having grown up in a multilingual society, they are particularly enthusiastic about language. As a linguistics professor, I can honestly say there is no other place I would rather be teaching.
When Kevin first told me that he was starting up a linguistics student magazine, I was actually not surprised. A few weeks earlier, Kevin had shown up, dragging a reluctant friend, to our department’s sociolinguistics reading group: the only two undergrads in a sea of grad students and faculty. I thought he would be frightened away by the second meeting, but he kept coming and somehow tolerating our esoteric debates over ‘place’ vs. ‘space’ and ‘stylization’ vs. ‘style’. So, it did not come as a total shock when Kevin revealed himself to be the sort of guy who would successfully put together a magazine in his spare time.
In his original editor’s foreword, Kevin said that there was almost no linguistics writing that was accessible to a popular audience. I put a big yellow comment note on that: actually, there has been increasing coverage of linguistics in popular media in the past few years. Moreover, this coverage is becoming increasingly linguistically informed; Slate magazine, for example, has the great podcast Lexicon Valley. But what has been missing from this surge in media interest is an international voice that represents the perspectives of young people outside the United States. I believe Unravel has great potential to showcase views from around the world on language and linguistics. As illustrated in this issue’s article on language and food, Singapore has a long history as a gateway between cultures; hopefully, Unravel can continue this tradition.
The NUS faculty are so proud of our students, and thankful to the contributors from elsewhere, for what they have put together for this first issue. Congratulations, everyone.
Dr. Rebecca Starr
Advisor to Unravel
Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature
National University of Singapore