I may have to actually (!) start planning out some of these posts. Recent posts in my Reader, and a Picasso quote in the (paper) text I’m reading…have spurred off a number of questions in my mind. Or, maybe not really questions. The questions present are along the lines of, “why is this having an impact on me?” There are four subjects in specific that have come up over the last 48 hours, only the last two of which, I’ll be able to tackle in this post:
- Spanish language learning
- Japanese language learning
The Spanish language topic was prefaced by the Picasso quote from yesterday: “el arte es una mentira que nos acerca la verdad,” or in my loose translation, “art is a lie which brings us closer to truth.” I think it was translated differently in the text in which I found it (Where Does Art Come From? by William Kluba). “Acercar” is also a term which relates more closely for me to, “to acquaint/to bring closer/to bring into one’s sphere,” but I am not sure of the directionality of that last definition: are we moving into something else’s sphere, or is that other thing coming into our sphere?
It’s hard for me to tell with the level of English grammar I was taught…apparently, no one wanted to teach English grammar in my District. This kind of handicaps me when I’m trying to learn another language, though; and what I’m learning from mentions transitive and intransitive verbs, and I don’t have a clear idea of what is being referred to. I can kind of grok it, but that’s not fully ideal…
I have partial skills in both Spanish and Japanese, though I’m limited in both as things are now. I took Spanish for six years as a teen, and Japanese for two or three quarters as a young adult. As much as I’d like to jump directly back into learning Japanese (this is a cultural heritage thing and a beauty thing), I’m much closer to functionality in Spanish — and Spanish is of much greater use in California (and tremendously greater use, south of the U.S. border: it’s why I chose Spanish over French, before I learned about the post-colonization chaos and U.S. interference which has affected much of Central and South America [which can in turn make U.S. tourists less than welcome]).
This doesn’t mean that I can understand sophisticated Spanish (like legal notices), but I can get an idea of what’s being communicated, much of the time. It might be a thing to do, to just — on my lunch breaks — go into the kids’ section and just start reading through the Spanish books, there. Of course, if I’m reading aloud, it may cause unwanted attention…in addition to a testing of my skills!
I should probably do that. If nothing else, it will acquaint me with the language again…without my having to sit through a Pimsleur CD set or the like. I seriously can’t tell how people learn through those. I brought home one or another set of Spanish language CDs one day and tried to listen to it, then turned it off after a while of the CD repeating “un ca-… un ca-… un carro. un carro.”…GAHHH!!! Does it really take two minutes to learn how to say “a car”?
And yeah, I probably have a Chiapas accent, because one of my early teachers (whom I had for two years) had a Chiapas accent. But maybe I’ll sound…like I have street cred or something? I don’t know.
(I probably shouldn’t get into why having a Chiapas accent is popularly seen as a negative thing — it’s really political, and has to do with colonization, resistance to colonization, and resistance to assimilation. Unless I’m mistaken, the entire Zapatista thing is centered in Chiapas. I should probably leave the rest of the subject alone, for now…I don’t know enough about it.)
The positive thing about having taken Spanish for six years, though, is that — for one thing, I already have some sort of grounding with verb conjugation, though for the life of me, I can’t remember much of it offhand without hearing or reading it first…and for another thing, I also know a method of intonation which works, even if that intonation is perceived as culturally inferior. (I’ve heard that the status of having a Chiapas accent in Mexico is like having a Southern American English accent in the U.S…though I am not sure the parallel is completely accurate, as I don’t know enough Mexican history.)
Japanese, on the other hand…I can teach myself to read, but I can’t teach myself not to speak like Siri.
I think that’s enough said about that, though the bright side of it is that in those two or three semesters of Japanese, I got a pretty good handle on Japanese grammar. For a newbie. I know enough to be able to pick out parts of sentences and common words, but I don’t necessarily know what those words mean or what the subject of a sentence is, if it’s in kanji — I just know that it’s the subject. I probably shouldn’t even get into on and kun readings, and when to use each one…and then there are the compound words which have kanji as the main part of the word, followed by kana which vary according to word use.
The positive part is that, apart from writing, Japanese seems relatively simple; and I’m sure learning the words first and then encountering them in text would make picking up what word is which, much easier.
The major drawback is finding people to practice with, and finding a teacher who isn’t going to be harsh. Right now, the nearest place I know to go for lessons is in San Francisco, and that is not ideal. The classes don’t meet anywhere near frequently enough, and it’s…a drive. Where one would find others to converse with on a daily basis, as well…? I don’t know, unless you like hanging out in Japanese dollar stores or markets, or work in one of the same (the latter of which, is probably a good idea, if you want to build language skills along with customer service skills).
Ahh. I think I’ve been sitting here for long enough.
Maybe I’ll go read something…