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Location: Clearwater, South Carolina, United States

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

languages - 1

There are many languages in our world, I assume I knew this in high school, but I chose not to study any of them and went for a general, minimum diploma. Looking back, that was not very smart but at the time it seemed the reasonable thing to do. From youth all the way through high school, the only language I spoke was southern.

In the summer of my graduation, I joined the Army – the draft was in force and I wanted to choose the time to get this obligation over with rather than have Uncle Sam choose another time that might not be so convenient. In military basic training I was exposed to the Spanish language big time for a couple of reasons. One – my training took place in the southern part of California – Fort Ord – and two - at least a fourth of our company was of Hispanic descent.

Then it was on to electronics training in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and all they spoke there was northern. I could understand them fairly well though, if they spoke slowly enough. In retrospect it seems like I could understand the girls better than the guys – maybe I was just trying harder or maybe this is all in my imagination.

After almost a year of training, they sent this southern boy to NATO Headquarters, just outside Paris France for 22 months. Two things I noticed right away, one – everybody except fellow soldiers were able to speak French very well, special classes I guess, and two – almost all the cars were foreign ones.

My work schedule was rotating shift work, made necessary because we had to have 24/7 coverage in our communications center. Equipment maintenance was my job and at least one of us had to be there. This was not a bad thing except I couldn’t take language classes since I didn’t have a set schedule.

A few printed French lessons and a dictionary were acquired and on my own I picked up some of the rudimentary words and phrases, enough to make myself understood. By the time I came back to the USA, I was doing some rough translations between some of the army types and their French girlfriends. You can probably imagine what their desires and intentions were.

Years have passed now and I still have a feeling that I would like to be at least bi-lingual – but evidently the feeling is not strong enough to motivate me into going back to school for the learning of another. It also has occurred to me that my native tongue could use a bit of polishing – especially in its written forms and sentence construction, but also in word meanings and the subtle nuances thereof.

To be continued. ec


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

That's funny, about southern and northern being different languages.

Here we learn French most of the way through school, but it's a subject and everybody hates it and nobody really learns to speak it. Now, I wish that I could parlez-vous but realize that unless fate intervenes dramatically, I never will.

11/30/2005 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Bonita said...

I'm amazed how much the visual impacts on language, and non-verbal nuances, too. So often, I'm not listening to the words, but I'm noticing the delightful energy, use of the hands and eyes, the body dynamics. They all say stuff that give a mental picture long after I have forgotten the words.

11/30/2005 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger mreddie said...

AC - The southern-northern thing was a bit tongue-in-cheek but the differences are there.

Bonita - Good point - I agree. ec

11/30/2005 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger bryan torre said...

For the record, not that anyone should care: if all jobs paid the same, I'd look for one in language/linguistics. Language and culture (some say "Language is culture") are two of the most fascinating things I know about.
I find my life broadened immensely by the little language study I've been able to do...

11/30/2005 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger bryan torre said...

PS. Anvilcloud, I grew up in Alberta and remember well being taught French against my will. Now I wish I'd paid attention. I can say "Je ne parle pas francais" (?) and I can still sing a song about "My crow lost a feather [two feathers, three feathers, etc]", but that's about it...

11/30/2005 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger the carnal christian said...

language... it's such a beautiful thing. a coworker was just in here talking about Hungarian, saying it's an inflected language (where the bits at the end signify part of speech) but stress is always placed on the first syllable of every word. stuff like that is just fascinating.

ec, ac, whatever you do don't give up on the french. i got handy with it back in college, but haven't used it much in 10 years... naturally, i can only ask for the bathroom now. lol

but i'm in the middle of a full-scale review right now, using my MP3 player and the french books i used back in college. i listen to the MP3s in traffic, and here in atlanta there's a lot of that. ha!

great post. language... oh my lord i love it.

11/30/2005 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger mreddie said...

bryan and tcc - thanks for dropping in. ec

11/30/2005 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger eclectic said...

I'm going to have to toss my dime in with Carnal Christian on this one. I adore language -- the concept, the activity, the various approaches and constructs, just everything. I took precisely one semester of French in college -- enough to make me wish I could speak it. But I keep my French-English dictionary close, and once our littlest Eclectic goes to school, I'll spend a part of each day studying French again. Provocative post, Mr. Eddie!

11/30/2005 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger Michael W said...

One thing I have always found a little funny about myself is that I am hispanic but I dont know the slightest bit of spanish. I get alot of crap for it too.

Language is fantstic. Without it we wouldnt have blogs.

12/01/2005 12:49:00 AM  

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