The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

By the way... there's a crossword at the bottom of this page

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Huh? What'd You Say?


A friend of mine had an acquaintance from Switzerland who once apologized for her poor English, saying she had studied for only 4 years. He replied that her English was fine, better than his, and he had studied it all his life.

I have had a number of friends and acquaintances over the years who were bi-lingual. Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Cuban, Filipino... born in their native countries and then finding themselves here in the U.S. I am always impressed with a person's ability to speak more than one language even if poorly. I have tried to learn German and Spanish but have failed miserably in my attempts. I can say "hello" and "good-bye" and "thank you" and "please" in a few languages and maybe count a little bit but that's pretty much the limit for me. I am not conversant in anything other than American English and this saddens me sometimes.

One of the things these friends and acquaintances have all remarked on is the difficulty of English. They all felt it was difficult to learn. Based on my experiences with foreign languages, I always felt I understood or at least commiserated with them.

English is actually a wonderful language, elegant and versatile. But, yes, it can be confusing.

People often say "The [insert language here] have a word for it..." and then provide the word. Shadenfreude is one such word... It is the enjoyment of someone else's misery or problems. Or "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others."

This is one of the joys of English. If we do not have a word for something and someone else does, we just take theirs and incorporate it.

English is, in a sense, a "mongrel" language. A mixture of Latin, French, Germanic, and much more, though it has roots of its own.  This makes it, to me, extremely versatile and adaptable.

There was a movement, not so long ago, to create a International Language; Esperanto. It didn't really catch on. And I understand why, I think. We all think our native language is best, perhaps superior to all others. What we do not realize is that we began learning it shortly after birth and it took us many years to become even semi-proficient in it.

Think about the last conversation you had with a 5 year old. You really had to work at it to understand what the child was saying and he or she had an equally difficult time. Not to worry, in a few short years that 5 year old will be a teenager and you won't understand anything he or she says.

Language is culture, it is said, and I believe that. I just wish I could be multi-cultural.


2 comments:

Bill Chapman said...

I am very surprised by your commenrt that Esperanto "didn't really catch on". I see Esperanto as a remarkable success story. In fact this planned language celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. That's quite an achievement for what started as the idea of just one man. It has survived wars and strikes and economic crises, and continues to attract young learners.

Douglas said...

The highest estimate of Esperanto speakers is 2 million (that estimate range is actually 10,000 to 2 million). Out of 6 billion people. There are more speakers of almost any other language. So, I must stand by my "didn't catch on" remark.