Thursday, 13 October 2016

Sorting out the words!

It's that time of year again when I get out the CDs and books and have another rather undisciplined go at improving my somewhat basic Portuguese. In a couple of weeks we are going to Figueira da Foz again, where Phil will play chess and I shall stroll up and down the beach and explore places of possible interest and, just maybe, engage in conversation in Portuguese.

When I decided to learn Italian I was doing a regular commute to and from Salford and spent at least 45 minutes each way listening to CDs and repeating bits of Italian out loud. Other drivers might have thought I was a little crazy but I really think it makes a lot more sense than trying to text or phone people while on the motorway. We also went on Italian-learning holidays to places like Taormina in Sicily and Viareggio in Tuscany. And then I signed up for evening classes and took a couple of exams. And here I am, a reasonably fluent Italian speaker.

My Portuguese learning has been far less systematic. I have listened to the CDs and repeated stuff and learnt quite a lot. But I have not done it on a daily basis, repeating the same things over and over. And so far I have not found Portuguese-learning holidays to coincide with the chess tournaments but I can't say I have really investigated properly. I have tried on numerous occasions to attend classes. Each time I have enrolled on a course it has run for about three weeks and then folded for lack of sufficient numbers. So I am thrown back on my own resources. And the trouble is that, since Portuguese is in the same family as French, Spanish and Italian, I can read it without difficulty and even understand and speak quite a bit. Consequently, I know I am not really trying hard enough to improve.

Another determined effort is called for. Ten new words a day and that sort of thing!

Enough of that. Here is something else about words. My iPad newsfeed has just informed me that Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. Good for him! Sara Danius, permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, describes Dylan as “A great sampler … and for 54 years he has been at it, reinventing himself.” She described Blonde on Blonde as an "extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming. putting together refrains, and his brilliant way of thinking.”

When Phil expressed some doubts about the "literature" element of Dylan, I quoted Sara Danius at him: “if you look far back, 5000 years, you discover Homer and Sappho. They wrote poetic texts which were meant to be performed, and it’s the same way for Bob Dylan. We still read Homer and Sappho, and we enjoy it.”

So Homer and Sappho were the Dylans of their day.

I wonder what Dylan himself thinks about it. He clearly enjoys playing with words but he always denied serious intent behind what people saw as his protest songs. However, once the words are out there, even if the writer (or his/her agents) has the copyright, they are in a way public property and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. 

Now, maybe someone should start nominating other singer-songwriters. Joni Mitchell has some interesting stuff. And Leonard Cohen, who after all started out as a poet rather than a performer, says that he still has a lot of poetry and song waiting to be organised. He is just a little concerned that at 82 he may not have the time and energy to sort it all.

 Someone else needs to make a determined effort. It's not just me!

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