September 28th, 2010


Tasty (con)fusion!

Foreign places have their own styles of tasty food, but even better are their languages. I try to devour them wherever I go, but they can only be eaten slowly - too slowly for me, because there's always more; you can never finish even one.

I pick up scaps of languages and then don't follow up. I can try to learn them when I'm home, and probably really should ... but they're so much different when they're at home. When the announcement on the PA, the signs on stores, the names of things on packages, the snatches of conversation on the street, the names of places, are the kinds of things that let me inbibe the language.

After four days in Cologne last week, and another one & a half now, I'd finally reached the point where I could sometimes understand simple practical sentences. On the train to the airport, when the announcer listed upcoming stations and arrival times, I got most of them, and when he said "nächste Station, Düsseldorf Flughafen" I understood effortlessly (like a lot of German, it's much clearer to English-speakers when written than it is when heard). But now I'm flying home. In 2008 when I got 9 full days in Italy after a week there with the family, I got much further. In both cases, I had help from spending most of my time with someone who spoke both languages - elfy in Germany, magickalpony in Italy.

Five days in Majorca gave me very little Spanish because I spent all that time with my extended family, but I had forgotten how much my Hebrew vocabulary expands when I'm immersed in that kind of environment! Not the same thing as being in a language's home country, but they do bring along with them a little bubble of shared conversation, including a lot of slang. Most amusing to me were some of the newer English-derived informal words that have been adapted to Hebrew grammar, such as:

Legagel: To Google. As in, "gigalti otach" (I Googled you(f))

Letayeg: To tag, on a social networking site. As in, "hoo tiyeg oti" (he tagged me)

And apparently "le`alter", "to alter", isn't even considered slang, but a fully accepted word.

On the cab ride to my hotel for the last night (I stayed one extra night), my cabbie spoke barely any English - and I have almost no Spanish. Which would've been okay, because I had a map with the name and address of the hotel, and he had a GPS map thing. But he happened to mention knowing French, and we chatted in French the entire ride. By the time I got to the hotel, I nearly spoke to the desk clerk in French.

The next day, I stopped at a little bar to buy a bottle of Spanish Casera beer for elfy, except I had forgotten the word "casera", I only remembered that the Spanish drink a lot of this combination of beer with something like lemon-flavored tonic water. The man behind the bar spoke little English, so I tried to communicate what I wanted with the few Spanish words I could call up - "cerveza", "limon", "botelle". He asked, "casera?" and it took a few times before I realized he was offerring me the very thing I wanted! In my hasted to say yes, what came out was:
    Oui! ... Ken! ... Yes! ... Sí!

At least I didn't add a "ja" and a "kyllä" in there somewhere before I got to Sí :)