It’s exactly a week until my Balearic adventure; given that all of the meditation workshops are in Spanish and I’ll be a temporary resident, it’s only polite that I learn a little bit of the lingo…
Quiero aprender español
How incredible is it to think that we went from grunting and gesturing on the grasslands of Africa millions of years ago, to the almost seven thousand languages we speak today? Language is a both science and an art, and one of the many things we mindlessly take for granted.
The right side of our brain memorises words and the left side applies grammatical rules to build up the logical formations we know as sentences.
I talked about how I fell in love with languages in Vernacular Spectacular, but my true understanding came aged twelve in a classroom on the second floor of a beautiful Georgian building learning Latin.
I was fortunate enough to get into the one of the best all girls school in the city – Belvedere – where a tall, lank teacher with grey curly hair and a surgically attached backpack, called Mrs Bolton, taught us the ancient alphabet.
Puella cadit a ligno (the girl falls from the tree), is the main sentence I remember but she taught me much more than that. This was when I really started to understand the systems, the patterns and the building blocks; the methodical game of Linguistic Lego.
Lost in Translation
After completing my degree in Applied Languages Europe in French and German I was accepted onto a work placement scheme with the European Commission.
Six of us chosen Brits with varying aptitudes for Deutsch found ourselves in Berlin, by far the coolest European city going, and were allocated roles.
Berlin is where I fell in love with Helmut Newton, flea markets and bars that look like squat dens. For the four or five months I was there in that magical Stadt, I worked as a translator; taking texts and audios from Deutsch or Französich and scribbling them out in Englisch.
I danced with the idea of a career in translation but soon realised it wasn’t for me – although a certain element of artistic licence is permitted, the content is not your own and you feel restricted by the brief.
When I write I want the freedom to say whatever I want to say, use capital letters inappropriately and sometimes put into sentences hidden meanings, that only I will ever know.
Over the years of attempting to converse in other dialects, of course there have been many times when I’ve got myself into a bit of bother…. a Linguistic Loment if you will.
On a crisp autumn morning when I was living in Aix en Provence, I crunched my way along the auburn carpet and paid a visit to le médicin (the doctor), as I was feeling run down.
Vous-avez une angine, he said.
Now bear in mind this was before the days of Google searches and translation apps, and all I had to contact the outside world was a pay as you go Motorola flip phone that was never, ever in credit.
So I had to work out what my ailment was the good old-fashioned way – make a total guess.
OH MY GOD I’VE GOT ANGINA AND I’M DYING
I ran to the nearest phonebox and dialled up my parents to tell them the awful news. They knew that the best advice they could possibly give my moribund self was to tell me to go home and look up angine in my enormous Collins dictionary, then to call them back with confirmation of whether or not I’m dying from a moderately severe cardiac disease.
I guess upon reflection the doctor wouldn’t have given me a prescription for some sort of throat syrup if I did have angina… It was, in fact, just tonsillitis.
Tengo un gato
My grasp of español is muy basic.
I dated a fiery (polite way of saying borderline psychotic) Spaniard for a while in London who bombarded me with scarily thoughtful gifts, chauffeured me around the capital on the back of his vespa and said ¡Hostia puta! – a lot.
In addition to that four month lesson in Language and Lust, I took a ten week Spanish course with my Mum. This was when I was in my early twenties and the class was at 9am on a Saturday morning, so I was always hazed from la noche before and my information retention setting was on low. All I took from that was tengo un gato.
And last but not least there’s the time I made a Spanish show of myself trying to have a polite conversation with my friend’s Dad.
He was picking us up from the airport and I knew he didn’t speak a word of English so I’d diligently prepared a few phrases.
Estoy caliente I said, pointing to the sun and wafting my hand in front of my face like a makeshift fan. What I was trying to do was comment on how hot it was outside, but what I actually said, with a big innocent grin on my face and far too much eye contact was…I’m horny.
So that’s where I’m at.
Holy fuck, I have a cat and I’m horny