When I was a wee lad, many, many, MANY years ago, I found the coolest thing in a local bookstore. Well, ok, I thought it was the coolest thing in the universe but you’re very likely to think differently. It was a book, written in French, that taught the reader Arabic. At the time, it caught my attention for two reasons. The first is that you don’t really see a lot of Arabic textbooks around. At least not in 1985 you didn’t and especially not Arabic textbooks written, as this one was, back in the 50s. For whatever reason, Arabic just wasn’t respected as a language so it was hard to find resources to learn it. Now, of course, with the recent conflicts in the Middle East, every aspiring private in Signal’s Intelligence is interested in picking up a bit of Arabic or Farsi or whatever happens to be handy. But back “in the day” as they say, it was rather unheard of.
The second thing that caught my attention was that it was a book, written in a language I don’t know, intended to teach yet another language I don’t know. Since the first day I laid my monolingual eyes on that book I have been struck by the awesome majesty of the idea that you could learn one language, then use that new language to learn a third and thus reinforce the second. Proceeding thusly you could daisy-chain your way into the sort of polyglot status one tends to read about in Jane Austen novels. The world would be your oyster.
The bitter irony of all this, of course, is that despite a reasonably competent command of the even English language, I’m too fucking shy to talk to 99% of the people in the universe anyway. So yes, I could put forth a grand effort to learn French and then be even more shy about talking to people in that language. I would postulate, if placed under close cross-examination, that most of my fascination with language is really just an attempt to overcome the bitter distance I feel separates me from the people I’d really like to be having a conversation with in the first place. It is a useless attempt to learn my way out of a personality deficiency. At any rate, that is a grand digression.
Returning to the here and now, my current area of pursuit is German. My eldest is taking German in high school so it would be a good reinforcement for me to learn along with her or at least be able to encourage her. To that end I’m piddling along to at least stay abreast of her class. I’ve got several years of Spanish under my belt, so I’m hoping to refresh that by doing dual “homework” in Spanish and German. At the least I’ll pick up a few key phrases and make Hogan’s Heroes all the funnier. Which, if you really think about it, is the only real reason to do anything. Oh, that Sargent Schulz!