Wednesday, October 26, 2005

adventures in language

I have been taking these German classes at night, just for a couple weeks, and I see that one of the vocabulary words for chapter 3 is the word for "predominately." (vorwiegand). Is that necessary? For comparison, here is a partial list of words we haven't learned:

sales tax

Seems awfully Teutonic to me. Draw your own conclusions.

It did get me thinking about how textbooks set about trying to teach you a language. When I took Chinese, the first chapter was all "Are you Mr. Wong?" "No, I am Mr. Liu." "Yes, I am Mr. Wong." Because, you know, we think they all look alike. My Chinese teacher, a Taiwanese woman inclined to gossip (to this day, one of the only things I remember how to say is "who does she think she is?") used to parade me in front of her friends and make me talk to them. An imprecise syllable lead me to tell one of them that Chinese people were very difficult, instead of the Chinese language was very difficult, but I don't think difficult retains that meaning in Chinese. And then there was the time that I got one LETTER wrong in a word changed the meaning, in Italian, of "call me or write me" to "call me or (do something violent and maybe exciting to) me." and the Italian to whom I was addressing this discourse wrote back pointing out this mistake and then wrote: "I will. Call you, I mean."

It was worth it.


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