Language, revisited

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I was reminded by my friend about language. Native language, to be precise.

You see, there was a party today. An immigrant party at the end, an island in time with yummy food and drink and teasing and joking and merry-making. Then there was the catch up about people and relationships and illnesses and deaths and other serious stuff. Then there was the bad music that you can dance on all day and night if you have to, just because you need it after the heavy stuff before. All the above required specific words that would have been difficult to find in normal life, when some of us don’t use our native language every day.

And so we talked. And gesticulated. And exclaimed in ways that made sense in the context but translate very badly. Some don’t translate at all except in metaphor. Sometimes when I talk to people back home it is difficult to translate as well because some of the experiences I’ve had have been here only, and I wouldn’t have used the words there so the translation is choppy and rough and the words don’t flow smoothly in either language.

But my friend recognized that native language has that ease about it, the lack of formality that even swearing doesn’t obtain in a foreign language, no matter how well you speak it. I find I use swearing in English just as I would recite poetry, appropriately, but with the usual coda that it doesn’t quite fit. You know, like reciting poetry in the supermarket doesn’t fit, even if you’re saying it beautifully. Perhaps because you say it beautifully.

I could have had the same conversation in English today. I dream in English and have done so for years, it’s the first language in every day life as my husband and child don’t speak my native language. I write poetry in English although I have despaired of ever rhyming in it. I read more in English and most of the music I listen to is in English as well, if said music has words. But even if talk about insurance and mortgage and work is easier in English my native language remains the one I am most happy to joke in, to express feelings, to say names, yes and no.

It is even funny when it comes to plants. I would know or read the name of a plant in my language. I would then have to research (internet or books, it matters not) the Latin name for it, then go and find it in English. It works the same way vice-versa. Wikipedia is good at this because it sometimes has both languages. And then I would be able to compare the sources, another quirk of mine 🙂

My little one has asked to learn my native language. She already knows some words but not at the putting-into-sentences level, so she doesn’t use them unless encouraged. But we have decided we’ll try. So now I have to find a way. She is not a baby who will absorb whatever it is that her mother says. I will have to teach my child my native language as if it were a foreign one.

How in the world would that work?

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Teach

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You’d think it would be difficult to find a notion that includes, in various definitions and languages, to lead into vice or bad habits, a token, to watch or guard, and those quite aside from the well-known definition. Turns out it’s not impossible, teaching covers the lot and more 🙂 Sounds a bit strange, when you think about it, but for once I am not interested in etymology.

You see, there is something about the ability to teach that sparks every nerve cell in my body. I love to learn. I mean, I really love it. The worse punishment you could give me as a child was to tell me I could not go to school that day. And that was without even taking teachers into consideration. I was interested in learning but having in front of me someone who actually knew those subjects, oh, my, divinity was simply too little a gift for them! Yeah, well, I was always a bit OTT 🙂

I had a bit of a problem though. Most children learn to please others and I was no exception. Most children move on though as they grow up and they learn for their own sake. I never made that move completely. I could still learn a subject with a bad teacher if it was in my interest but no matter how much I loved that subject or how good I was at it, bad teaching would lead to me giving up that subject.

I sometimes made teachers uncomfortable. I am an impossible pupil unless you are very confident in what you teach. My memory, like so many children of my generation, has been honed over years of rote learning. I stare at teachers for hours on end if allowed trying to absorb everything they can give. I always have a answer and I am quick about it. I am also reasonable with analysis and synthesis. I test teachers to make sure they remember their own words. All in all, perfect for one on one tuition, but horrid in a classroom 🙂

I mentioned once that between people and books, the books almost won. The reason they didn’t is because they are simply not personal enough. Yes, yes, yes, I know that everybody perceives the same book differently, but that is not enough for me. I want to be taught. I want to look at the teaching subject not through the static lens of a book but through the eyes of a person who loves that subject. I am not asking much, am I? 😛

An example is gardening. I have read uncounted books on it and experimented in my garden and the results have been dismal. I am now learning to garden organically and I can’t wait for each class. A subject I love taught by a teacher who loves it… a no brainer, really!

I am also very angry if a teacher is not good. It’s the unfairness of it, you know? Here is a subject that could be taught so well and could change lives in the bargain… and what are you doing with it? How dare you make a hash of it? Horrid pupil, like I said!

Of course I would love to have private tutors for each subject I want to learn (and there are many, as described in yet another blog). Small groups seem to be ok though, so I’ll stick to it.

But what I would actually like is an apprenticeship. Does anyone know a person who’s skilled in herbalism and wouldn’t mind having me as a shadow?