Saturday, June 28, 2008


Oh, this is a total zombie blog allright. So sorry.

The new job does involve some travel, but for various reasons I haven't been hitting the lessons quite as hard during the travels as I thought I might be going into it: As most I'm doing 1 unit of Rosetta per flight, and 1 pimsleur per city. I can totally improve on that, I know.

Today I was talking with a cousin about Chinese and Japanese and I came up with a key distinction between languages: "Interruptible" versus "Uninterruptible". Languages where key verbs are at the END of the sentence are Uninterruptible.

In japanese, not only is the verb at the end, but whether it's positive or negative is at the END of the Verb. For instance: "As for me, very much cats I... [like not at all] [like] [eat] [desire]." So if you stop a Japanese person mid-sentence, you will never know if they do or don't like the cats, or indeed WHAT verb they'd attach to cats (Eat? Pet? Exercise?).

Similarly, in many of the tenses of German (past, conditional, and future) the action verb is at the end: "I will next year a fine film [make] [see] [purchase] [eat]". Stop them mid sentence and you'll never know.

Now, with these short sentences, you wonder "why would I interrupt?" Consider that all manner of modifiers and sub-clauses will also be loaded into these sentences before the verb: "I will [next year in May together with several friends with whom I had gone to school] a film make."

In contrast, in French, English, Chinese, and other Interruptibles, you can say "I'm going to make a movie [next year with som...]" and brother I'm going to cut you off right there. Because I know you're not going to make that movie. You're always saying you're going to, and it's just never going to happen.

I know it's a strange distinction, but it just might lead to greater understanding between the peoples of this Earth.

In English,

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm still around!

I just need to remember that the Xmas season is always so busy, and more so with kids. It hasn't helped matters that work has been pretty evil too. But there's light at the end of the tunnel: My new gig starts next week, along with more airport and hotel time, which means more language study time!!!

I recently had an email exchange in mostly-Svenska, and learned just enough Nederlands to have a chat with a Dutch cousin. I'm catching up on my German and Spanish podcasts, and am enjoying a little French in there too. Right now, Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese are on the back burner... but they'll be back in the mix soon enough.

I'm just in a Germanic mood I guess - I have been doing comparisons between German, Dutch, Swedish, and English, and am finding it pretty easy and fun to switch between them. The Dutch sounds are just crazy - rolled R's and lots of "cch" gutteral rumbles. My favorite word is "Graag" which means gladly or please - you use it a lot when ordering food - and it starts with a throat clear, going right into a rolled R, then the aaaahh and ending with the throat clear again. It's tempting to roll all the way through, but no, the R is only at the beginning. The whole effect is so satisfying to say that it truly seems to convey a PRIMAL desire for what you're asking for: Who could deny the requester a coffee or pastry when accompanied by a miniature tiger growl?