El Sobrino Speaks

Otra vez… (this is a rewrite of a blog I lost earlier)

Yesterday my sobrino (nephew) came to stay and I’ve been stretching my semi-bilingual brain much more. He’s almost three years old and speaks some Spanish and Catalan, understands French and has picked up some English. However, not enough English for me to speak with him, so when he asks me “¿Co qué?” (por qué=why) I have to come up with a quick yet coherent answer in Spanish, there and then. I think I used more Spanish words today than English!!!

I think sometimes I’m making up sentences as I going along, so don’t know how I sounds to a Spanish laymen’s ears, but I survive with this mantram: No se dice, pero se entiende (it’s not said, but it’s understood), so I may sound silly but I can make myself understood until I iron out the wrinkles in my Spanish.

His brain is absorbing language at a far faster rate than mine and in a few years he’ll probably be more fluent than me in more than two languages (I envy him and Keanu Reaves, the latter of which can just plug himself into a computer for five minutes and then say “Wow, I know Kung Fu”). Another mantram that I tell “Con él tengo que aprender castellano” (With him I have to learn Spanish), and I practice it too.

And yet I’m still amazed at how my brain unconsciously picks up on new languages; there are even some French phrases I can recognise!

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The Body Speaks

Yesterday I was watching two images of the same man explaning the same thing, at the same time, in two different languages. Both images were talking about the different expressions used in different languages, but one was in German and the other in French. It was interesting, not just what he was saying (what I could understand) but also to see how his body language was different in each. I don’t know whether this was conscious or unconscious.

In French his head was more inclined, and he used hand gestures a lot, but in German his body was straighter and stiffer, with less hand gestures, though when he did use hand gestures they were more open handed and “chopping”, both hands doing the same action. This was something I found when I moved to Spain; there is a difference in body language and it’s worth paying attention to this, not just the words.

Language isn’t just the words, phrases and tones you use, it can be the gestures, and each language, it would seem, has its own body language in tow; there’s also differences within a language as body language comes with culture.

It’s just a shame there’s no dictionary for gestures lol!

Sorry for my English, I’m English

I got a few books on grammar recently and have realised just how much I knew and how much I don’t know. It’s very good. It’s appalling.

I thought I had a good grasp on apostrophes, but I seem to have got confused on a point. When a name or noun ends in an s then there’s no need to put an s after the possesive apostrophe. I’d developed a little quirk from this misinterpretation, so instead of saying James’s I would say James’. Although maybe I’m right, and what I hear and read is wrong. Oh dear, I’m confused now.

And now I’ve discovered a little bit more of what to do with colons, semi-colons, dashes and hyphens I don’t know what to do with them I’ve been relying on commas, full stops and brackets in their place. I didn’t even know the difference between dashes and hyphens so all hyphens have been called dashes. And now I’m not sure if I’m constructing my sentences okay. What did they learn me in school? I ask you!

I often encounter people (non-English) that apologise for not speaking English well, which makes me laugh because, at times, I’d have to apologise about the same thing! Or even describe to their unbelieving ears that I know plenty of English people that speak and write worse. If you’ve learnt English as a second language you’re probably more familiar with Standard English than I am.

Never mind about Spanish or French, I should be ironing the kinks out of my English. I think I need to go back to school, so I can learn me to talk proper.

Élocution Française

“I like this new word I learnt: t(r)empête.”

“You mean tempête, not trompette.”

“I didn’t say trompette, I said t(r)empête.”

“There’s a difference between trompette and tempête.”

“Yes, I know: t(r)empête and trompette. See?

“No! You did it again. There’s no ‘r’ in tempête.”

“That’s right, that’s what I said, t(r)empête.”

“No! TEMpête. TROMpette. Right, say tronc.”

Tronc.”

“Now say temps, as in le temps.”

Temps. Le temps.

“Good. Now say tempête.”

T(r)empête.”

Temporelle?”

T(r)emporelle.”

“Is it really that difficult?”

“Yes…”

Then I had problems with pour, first of all saying it like pur but later it started to rhyme with encore, neither of which is right. I won’t tell you how I got on with cou (neck) and cul (bum), it’s a right pain in the…

Now repeat after me: Gros gras grand grain d’orge, tout gros-gras-grand-grain-d’orgerisé, quand te dé-gros-gras-grand-grain-d’orgeriseras-tu? Je me dé-gros-gras-grand-grain-d’orgeriserai quand tous les gros gras grands grains d’orge se seront dé-gros-gras-grand-grain-d’orgerisés.