Friday, 27 January 2017

Understanding stuff!

Sitting in the cafe of Rochdale infirmary while Phil sees a consultant about an eye operation, I've been watching the day open up. And what a nice day it is - lots of blue sky, a few pastel coloured clouds in the sky - so I shall try not to worry about Theresa May possibly selling our NHS to the USA and think about other things instead.

I asked in the cafe if they have wifi. "Oh, I don't think so," came the reply. "Is that where you need a password? I can never make it work." Great, I thought but I had a go anyway. Free WIFI, it popped up. Just log in. So I did and there I was, surfing the net! Well, checking my email, anyway.

I came across a site about the ten ways learning a language can ruin your life. As I have spent going on for sixty years learning and teaching languages, I was just a little intrigued. Here's a selection:

"You have to decide between sounding pretentious or pronouncing it wrong when you order foreign food:
You refuse to pronounce it ‘choriTSo’ but your beautifully pronounced ‘chorizo’ with a rolled ‘R’ will leave the waiter silently judging you."

Their example - the Spanish chorizo - is one that drives me crazy. I have to bite my tongue in restaurants and at supermarket delicatessen counters when I hear people ask for "choritzo'. It's Spanish, not Italian for goodness sake. But I don't hold back with family members. They all know how to pronounce it properly Spanish style.

Mind you, Ibiza annoys me even more so. For a while there was a song around, sung in English but by a German group, I think, all about a holiday in a place called Eye-bits-a! At the time I was teaching AS and A-Level Spanish. One of my students, despite numerous corrections, spoke in his oral test about visiting, yes, you've guessed it, Eye-bits-a! I was more than a little furious. And I suspect it lost him points for pronunciation. Serves him right.

"You become a habitual eavesdropper:
It can happen anywhere. You’re just casually grabbing a coffee and then BAM; someone speaking the language you’ve learnt sweeps by, and you freeze, listening in. Whoever is having a coffee with you will be confused by your blank expression and coffee mug hovering halfway towards your face."

I started earwigging when I was about 12, desperately trying to understand any French I heard on the bus and then, a year later, I added Spanish to the nosy-parker group. I even stayed on the bus beyond my stop. I followed people through the town centre. It happens less now. Experience has made me blasé (or should I, as a linguist, make the agreement and say "blasée"?).

"Friends and family use you as a translation resource:
 “Could you just have a read through my CV in English?” “I want this part to be in French as well, can you just quickly translate it?” PEOPLE. This stuff takes time and effort!"

I have translated utility bills, threatening letters, and all sorts of stuff. Once I translated instructions about the use of an epi-pen into French, Spanish and Italian. I did not object to that as the friend who asks me has three children who ALL have serious allergy problems - nightmare scenario!

If you are interested in the rest of the stuff, here's a link. But on the whole, langauge learning is more fun than this site suggests. I would recommend it to anyone.

Now, here's an odd story. Barcelona is complaining that it has too many tourists and is passing a law limiting the number of beds on offer. Under the slogan “Barcelona isn’t for sale”, protesters are calling for an end to property speculation, which is pricing residents out of the city, and to low-wage jobs in tourist service industries. Those who work in hotels and restaurants in the city apparently receive less than half the minimum wage so, although it sounds a bit like biting the hand that feeds you, I suppose the move is understandable.

Too much of a good thing perhaps! They want their city back.

That sounds like a refrain I have heard before!

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