Monday, March 30, 2015

365 True Things: 2/Language

These are the languages I'm conversant with, in descending order of fluency:

English
German : because I attended tenth grade in Bavaria—and 15 is still a good age to acquire a second language
Dutch : because I lived a summer in Holland during graduate school, and English is halfway between German and Dutch—with a lot of Latin thrown in
French : because I've spent quite a bit of time with francophone Belgians
Spanish : because junior high, plus it's all around
Norwegian : because I seem to go to Norway with some frequency
Italian : because I love Italy and the sound of Italian
Russian : because mushrooms and the Soviet Union and a trip in August 1990 that combined the two (and a short-lived Monterey Peninsula College Russian class)
Japanese : because I lived in Japan when I was ten and went back for a three-month honeymoon, not to mention a summer-session fast-track course in Japanese—three quarters in one
Hebrew : because for a semester in college I thought I wanted to become an archeologist and dig up potsherds in the Negev 
Arabic : because if I was going to go to Israel . . .

I can speak German, more or less. The others, through Italian, I can read with varying degrees of ease (or dis-ease). Russian, Japanese, Hebrew, and Arabic are pretty much lost to me now, though I still have some of my old textbooks and dictionaries. Hard to let them go completely.

I also have tiny pocket dictionaries for Finnish and Turkish, and teach yourself Irish, Greek, and Danish books.

I love languages. I love funny alphabets. I love grammar with all its rules. I love verb tenses, aspects, and modalities. I love word order, and how changing it can change meaning. I love beautiful words. I love the different musics of spoken languages. (Most of them. I do not consider Chinese lovely to listen to.)


At the moment, I have five books in other languages on my stack: Flaggermusmannen by Jo Nesbø, or The Bat (Norwegian); Het Diner by Herman Koch, or The Dinner (Dutch); In Zeiten des abnehmenden Lichts by Eugen Ruge, or In Times of Fading Light (German);  Sulla sponda del fiume Piedra mi sono seduta e ho pianto by Paulo Coelho, or By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (Italian); and El inocente by Michael Connelly, or The Lincoln Lawyer (Spanish). I wouldn't say I'm actively reading any of them at present. Not so as to follow a story, at any rate. But sometimes I'll pick one up—along with a dictionary, and for when I'm really stuck, the English translation—and read a page or two or three. I figure it's good for my brain. It's like solving a puzzle.

And every Wednesday I sit down and do what I call Norwegian language torture with a friend. It's good to share the suffering! And the fun. And slowly by slowly, we agree that we're getting somewhere.





3 comments:

  1. Så jenta leker med ord, ord og språk fra hele verden. Som et spill hun utfordrer hennes sinn. Du er full av moro!

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