Monday, October 01, 2007

Language and oscillation

Understanding time and prices in a different language is a real challenge. I sit and listen repeatedly to the recorded voices stating how many Euros something is, what time el tren leaves and arrives, or the hours of el museo, and try to type in the correct numbers. The first time through the test, I failed nearly all the questions; had to try again. (When I took beginning French, I had the same problem.)

Maybe it’s because of the order of the words, or the way times and prices are thought about in Spanish (and in French) as opposed to English; nueve euros sesenta y ocho (nine euros sixty and eight, 9.68) or las diez menos cuarto (ten minus a quarter hour, 9:45). If I was in Madrid (or Paris), I’d probably miss el tren, show up at el museo at the wrong time, get snookered into paying too much for something. I’d be doing lots of hand motions, possibly writing words and drawing little pictures on paper. Providing comic relief for the locals.

But having a good time, having an adventure. Spice, exciting, something "to write home about." One I wish I’d had available when I was in college. Maybe one of these days it’ll be an adventure we can take.

Learning a different language; oscillation?


Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of dilemmas.
-Henry Louis Mencken

Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.
-Dave Barry

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