Monday, October 18, 2004

language

i've begun the process of teaching myself German. I don't know quite why, actually it stemms from being in a country where it is spoken, and feeling so heinously stupid for not knowing what simple-sounding little words here and there meant. The first time i was ever in a non-English speaking country was a few weeks ago, and the presiding language of the place was Czech. I had had the presence of mind, before going, to at least teach myself what the little hellos and goodbyes and may i help you's were; i felt as though i had done as much as i could do in the time i had before i left, about that language... but i felt wierd not knowing more; i felt very annoyed with myself, not to know more... and then there i was in Austria, and i was utterly nowhere with German, and that made me feel just straight up dumb. Before i go back to that continent, i hope to have at least a basic simple understanding of German greetings and such things; and i'll possibly pursue the same for Russian and Italian, neither of which i know ANYthing about. It didn't matter to me, the way it seemed to matter to other Americans both here and over there, that English was known by most educated people. The fact that most Europeans know English seems to make most Americans think it's a waste of time to learn any other language. I have the opposite reaction, just by nature; it feels to me that i ought to be putting effort into French and Spanish, Italian and German and Russian at the VERY least, and then perhaps Czech and Swedish and Polish and Gaelic and a few others if i can manage to get around to it... I don't know how many languages my brain can possibly hold, but i'm willing to test it out if time will allow... In all likelihood it will be time, and not my mind, which will limit me in what languages i'm able to get into, in any in-depth way. I was actually a little suprized, how big of a deal the "language thing" was, in Europe. It was a constant issue to me, actually. Every new encounter, every new person i ran into; it was always the first and most major issue to confront; whether they spoke any language i knew and whether i spoke any language they knew and how much of each language either of us knew and how to get around the words either of us were bound not to know of the other's language, not to mention whether our pronounciation of the other's language would even be understood by the native speaker. Cultural differences would probably be the second biggest issue i ran into, but i don't know where i'd go to begin tackling that problem. it could be just that i'm not used to my language skills' being insufficient to communicate... But at the moment i don't actually think that's the likely truth of the matter, or the best answer to this compulsive need to educate myself, in what it feels like i've been missing or lacking all this time.

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