learning

We talk a lot about words here at home, Gerry and I. He being a linguist, and me speaking my second language … I think that’s only natural. We’re both interested in words.

Almost not one day goes by, without me having to look up a word in English … check them out, getting the full gist of them. Now, that I have the online tool TYDA.SE, it’s gotten so much easier … Websters online is great, but reading it in your native tongue is different … you get the full essence of it. Quite often I do that, when I feel that I don’t have the full grasp of it after we’ve talked about it. I don’t think it really matters for how long you’ve been gone from your own language — sometimes you need that.

One ‘phenomenon’ that I’ve noticed though … a word isn’t fully ‘incorporated’ into my own vocabulary until I’ve used it. I forget so many words I look up, but once  I’ve used it … either in speech or in writing … they stick! Before, I used to jot them down by hand each time I’d looked them up, and that was a good method. Unfortunately, somehow the computer has made it so I hardly ever do that anymore.

Almost from Day One, online, I’ve communicated with English-speakers. The thing about this is that only THREE persons,  have corrected my English. Two online and one in “real life”. The interesting part about this is that all three were non-native English-speakers! Well … the ‘real-life one’, I guess could be considered almost native speaker but the other  two spoke English as second language, as myself! I, myself could never bring myself to correct anybody else … perhaps that’s the same phenomenon. I admit there are times when I’m just itching to do it, but I’m too afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings.

I can only imagine all the bizarre things I must have said in the beginning, even if all the any good examples escape me right now … and all the grammatical mistakes I must have made  … none, of all the English-speakers I communicated with, said a word to set me straight. I quickly got good buddies online, and I was totally at ease with asking when I didn’t understand. There are so many expressions in the English language that you just won’t learn in another country. For example, a friend told me about how she had been ‘stood up’ and that didn’t make any sense whatsoever to me, but she explained it. ‘To go whole hog’, ‘I made a hog of myself’, ‘there are many ways to skin a cat’ …. the list could go on and on… Have you noticed, by the way, how many of all those expressions are related to animals?! That was a parenthesis, though 🙂

Two words come to mind, that I had problems with: “ignorant” and “eventually”. I had them totally wrong. I didn’t use them, myself, but I kept reading them online frequently, and misunderstood them totally. If you’ve tried to learn a foreign language perhaps you’ve heard about ‘false friends’. These two words were examples of that. All this has made me admire all the people that came to my own country and quickly learned the language! Many of them from countries with a different way of writing too … and a totally different culture to boot.

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a friend went to nyc

photo: s-o hogberg

A friend of mine in Sweden, just got back home from New York City. He’s 75 years old and doesn’t speak one word of English! I guess he had some sort of hang-up … that he really wanted to see NYC. Not like me … I want to go there too … it’s like the city itself is calling me … no, he wanted to visit some jazz club (Blue Note). His wife didn’t want to go, so he persuaded a niece to travel with him.

At first, I was under the impression that the niece didn’t speak English either. In Sweden, I’d say most people are more or less fluent in English BUT … not people that were born before 1945. That’s just an impression I have … something must have changed with regards to education around that year. My brother was born 1945 and he’s good in English. Turned out that I’d misunderstood and that the niece did speak a little English after all!

Now … I found this to be really brave. Okay, many people travel to different countries without speaking the language but they might either travel in a group or have some kind of arrangements. These guys were on their own. I kept thinking about what it would be like … being in a huge city, not being able to pronounce the simplest word?! How do you order in a restaurant? How do you tell a cab driver where to go? I guess you can point on a map, but still…?!

Nevertheless, they made it back and forth and he’s sent me pictures of the usual stuff … Statue of Liberty and so on … this one here is from the top of Empire State Building, I suspect. Very courageous!

This word … «courageous» leads me to an entirely different subject. «Brave, courageous» are two words that I apparently have not had the full grip of in English. They are used differently compared to my native tongue. I know what they mean, alright … it’s just the usage of them.

To me, those words used to be reserved for firefighters, people who jumped in to stormy seas to save a life … stuff like that — not because of writing a blog about your inner thoughts or taking part in a photo challenge. Now I know, but at first I found it a bit confusing when a person I used to know said that she didn’t have the courage to take part in a photo challenge we were discussing. Languages are funny that way … words can take on a much wider meaning in one language!

Now, that was a parenthesis. Back to NYC! One day, I’ll go there too … now that it’s more within my reach, so to speak. It’s one of my hang-ups … it keeps popping up in my dreams. I even wrote down a dream I had, as a blog post. I have it in my drafts folder and will post it some time soon. I’ve tried to explain to Gerry what this is all about … I’ve written about it before, I think. It’s no particular place there that I desperately want to see … well, the ordinary, touristy stuff … but it’s that I want to … once in my life get to experience the immensity of it all … feel the pulse of it … the pace. When I go … I’ll make sure it’s in late October or so, so that it’s not too hot and I’ll be able to enjoy.

It’s raining … it’s pouring

Not as bad as this picture implies though, and they’ve just lifted the rainfall warning.  The picture was taken in Market Square — a shopping centre here in Sant John. They have some type of glass thing there, with water circulating inside it.

This evening we’re going to get thunder & lightning, which is strange because it’s rather chilly. I don’t remember when I saw the sun last time. Three, four weeks ago perhaps. We’re not complaining … the cat and I are toasty up here. My husband is in France at the moment. He’s taken some pretty awesome photos.

When I’m having supper on my own,  I read. Always did. Right now, MacLean’s which we subscribe to, is on the kitchen table. Guess it’s the Canadian answer to TIME magazine. While I was still living in Sweden, I used to subscribe to Newsweek. It was a way for me to improve my vocabulary … and keep up with current events, of course. There were times back then, when I didn’t understand half of what I read, and I found TIME heavier and more confusing than Newsweek.

After seven years of speaking English only, it is of course getting a lot better, but in magazines like those, there are still lots of words I don’t know. Found one right now, as I was eating my little meal … UNCTUOUS. Had neither seen nor heard it before. So it’s true that we live and learn each day.

In the late 70’s … I knew the word «tissue», but only one meaning of it, namely Kleenex. Had no idea of all the other meanings, like biological for example. Read an article that contained the words ‘fetal tissue’, and I found it utterly confusing until it dawned on me that there must be something more to that word than Kleenex.