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Grappling with language August 5, 2005

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Now here’s an attachment to get you switching off in your droves, if you existed in your droves, that is, of course. But just as the previous entry is something about the mystery of sight, this one is about the mystery of speech, and how that gift has been somewhat lacking in me for the last few years. Is there something in my brain which has decomposed that just CAN NOT get to grips with these little gems which would make my life in Germany so much easier? I could do this learning by rote aged 12, after all. Why not now? Could always be that old chestnut laziness, of course. Anyway, verbs are the root of all evil when it comes to language-learning. In inflected languages, many fear the case system. Quatsch. It’s those verbs that should have you trembling in your boots. Without them, you’re a nobody. You can’t speak. You don’t exist. You are not. Du bist kein Mensch…

How I sometimes long for England!



1. Blonde at Heart - August 17, 2006

Just going over you past posts…

Arabic got LOADS of verbs, most of them are things that in any other language require a full sentence, e.g.: “wagaba” (وجب) is “ate one meal a day”.
Pretty cool and totally confusing.

2. BiB - August 17, 2006

Gosh, BAH, never expected to be finding comments back here. But thank you for the first bit of Arabic script on this blog. Are you an Israeli Arab, or simply an Arab, or originally from an Arabic-speaking country? Or just a good linguist? How close are Hebrew and Arabic? One of the few words I remember from my Hebrew class is ‘we’ – ‘anachnu’ – and isn’t that the same in Arabic?

3. Blonde at Heart - August 17, 2006

I am the latter.

Arabic and Hebrew are really close. Interestingly, many Arabic words entered Israeli slang, but in Arab slang only one word of Hebrew entered (as far as I know): “mahsom” (road-block). How fitting.

In Hebrew it is “anachnu” (אנחנו) and in Arabic it is “nachnu” (نحن).

Why you learnt Hebrew?

4. BiB - August 17, 2006

I was having a torrid (though unrequited) love-affair with Israel and Judaism. That’s calmed down a bit now – perhaps because I realised there wasn’t space in my head for a new language – although I consider myself ‘pro-Israeli’. Also, it’s just a personal thing. I’ve mostly ‘hit it off’ with any Jews I’ve met (mostly in England). I like the humour, the songs, the tortured souls. And I like the idea of Israel. I’ve never been. Anyone who has tells me it’s amazing.

5. BiB - August 17, 2006

Actually, one thing where Jews and the English are much closer, I would say, is with the self-deprecating sense of humour. I bumped into an English Jewish gay guy in a bar here recently, and he made me laugh so much with his Jewish jokes, including jokes about his own family. I don’t think Russians, at least collectively, make jokes about themselves. Is Russian one of your languages too? Are languages what you studied?

6. Blonde at Heart - August 17, 2006

Well, you should come. I was born and live in Israel, and it amuses me every time tourists are amazed by totally ordinary things, like the shuk (market) [this is actually not true. I find the shuk amazing as well, even though I can go there any day].

“Tortured souls”?

7. BiB - August 17, 2006

Isn’t there a good dollop of fatalism in the Jewish soul? I studied with a Jewish pal in Russia. He said he found Russians and Jews very similar (in as far as one can generalise). I thought this fatalistic streak was a common trait. Or does that sound bollocks to you?

8. Blonde at Heart - August 17, 2006

Errr…fatalists are considered quite odd, at least among the people I know. I know one fatalist, but he is a Yeshiva guy, so one would expect that from him.

9. BiB - August 17, 2006

Well, English, being an Engländer. French, because I lived in Paris for a couple of years and learnt it at school for 300 years. Russian, because I studied it at university and speak it at home every day with the Russian. German now, because of living here for over four years, but I’ve never studied the language, so speak it very incorrectly. I sort of feel I’m not in control of what I’m saying.

I’ve studied Polish, Spanish and Finnish at a not very advanced level, though could probably survive as a tourist in those countries (although in Finland everyone speaks English). Greek and Latin at school. Italian and Hebrew evening classes lasted equally long – about a few days!

10. Blonde at Heart - August 17, 2006

I really want to learn Russian. There are many people who came from Russia and former USSR in Israel, so it seems as a must. Right now I know basic Russian (priviet, paka, spasiva, etc) and some swear-words.

I learnt English and Arabic at school and recently took German classes. In high school for some reason I taught myself Latin. This bout of craziness proved useful later on.

Welche Sprachen sprechen Sie?

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