This morning Jessica and I enjoyed what’s no doubt to become a Roy family ritual. Before the sun has yet risen, we gather around the warm glow of the computer and log into our customized Google home page. Oh, there’s the news… And the weather, (rain again!)… and BAM! there’s four language widgets powered by Transparent Lanugage (c)! It blows our socks off! Four?!?! What sort of nerd are you!
Some background: I love languages. Love the new ones, the ancient ones, the linguistic trail that links the new ones to the old ones, phonetics, phonology, accents, idioms, literature, culture, food, history… (set loose the dogs of words!). Coming from an English speaking family, it seems to be a testament to our eternal nerdiness that my brother, Nathan, and I sought enjoyment in the study of ancient Greek. I didn’t get too far, but that was perhaps the start of a path of learning that took Nathan through Aztec, Egyptian, and Quenya to the Arabic that the Air Force pays him for. I have been working on French since Junior High, with a working knowledge of the phrase “May I kiss you?” in 7 languages. (Always be prepared!) I can’t recall how my love of Scottish Gaelic began, though it was undoubtedly fostered by my favorite movie Braveheart and the tantalizing possibility of being related to the famed Rob Roy. Lastly I’m into my second semester of German at American River College, a wonderful language that I’ll put to good use in graduate school some day.
So what are these widgets? Well, it’s a Word of the Day system, usually with a little example sentence, spoken by a native speaker. My German professor told us about it and suggested it for the excellent pronunciation. So there’s the first one: German. It’s a pleasant late-twenties man who enjoys potato salad and opening things.
French, either because of my French-speaking Grandpa, Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, or both, has always been close to my heart. This widget is a slightly mumbling, alto woman, her sentence about the color white simply a graceful arch of gooey bechamel sauce.
Is the next one Gaelic? Alas no. Gaidhlig is an endangered language. Up to one generation ago, it was illegal to teach in public schools. I’ll have to work on that later.
The next widget is Russian. Say what, now? Yes, as you saw in my last post, I enjoy Russian music and I had a fun conversation with a native of Russia from church. Jessica maintains that she is mortally afraid of Russia and vows we shall never go there. Maybe just to the “Little Russia” sector of Sacramento? This widget sounds like a tiny but husky child with a warm hat on. Charming.
The last is truly the one we wake up for. All the rest give us something we may use some day. They are friends who are there to teach us something. Not so the Latin widget! I cannot begin to convey the utter contempt with which this man speaks the lingua franca of the Roman empire. He’s old and angry, and hates every word, but hates them all equally. No matter what the sentence, it turns into a polemic of despair in the mouth of this erudite Dark Lord! And the v’s! Those wonderful v’s I came to love so ardently in choir: “et vivam venturi saeculi, amen”. What has he done with them! Now they’re frickin’ w’s! Wiwam wenturi? And he says it all with his disparaging face. It’s like a villain saying a nursery rhyme or a tongue twister. Makes you want to laugh, but you know you won’t last long if you do.
So why listen to Mr. Latin? He puts us in our place for the whole day. With tragedy and comedy so intimately linked in his voice, we are ready to face whatever the day has for us.
Mar sin leibh!