At his cryptic best, David wraps up the Dekalog with this, number 10.
But fear not! There may well be more to come.
If you ever get the chance to work in the booth at the Committee of Regions the first thing you'll notice is that there are TV screens everywhere. If you look at the ceiling you'll see pods protruding unobtrusively from the ceiling. When someone switches on their microphone these Doctor Who-like contraptions home in on them and you have a perfect view on your monitor. Except of course that people play around with their controls so when you're trying to work suddenly you get a shot of someone looking sheepish and frantically trying to undo. When I have a TV on in front of me I instinctively make myself comfortable and the word beer immediately suggests itself. Then I go into couch potato mode and start noticing things. I have Prosto w Oczy on in the top right quadrant of my screen this minute. Monika Olejnik is interviewing Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz on http://ww2.tvp.pl He's very easy to understand, he smiles a lot and has a very expressive face, he does funny voices and then goes back into his gravitas thing. She follows a line of questioning. You can tell from the body language. Three or four questions go in the same direction then she changes her posture either because she's run into a brick wall or because she's winkled something out of her interlocutor and wants to move swiftly on. In the CoR I always switch off the screen because I find it a terrible distraction. Even now I'm not really paying attention. I'm writing this in Word in the bottom right-hand quadrant and the text of the interview takes up the rest of the screen on the left. Something else I find difficult is when I'm sitting at a table with Polish friends and I'm in passive listening mode but no, they don't like you to just sit there like a wally dug. Every so often they wake you up by saying things like odezwij sie! (say something!) or zgodz sie! (say something!) or Halo, ptasie radio! (say something!). When you've been at a language for a while it's just a matter of flipping a switch and you understand everything perfectly. It's an illusion to think that after several years of reading the texts of interviews, annotating the margins of your books and walking around with a newspaper under your arm what you need to really understand is more reading matter. Obviously what you need is some way of snapping out of pot plant mode. Funnily enough just reading the transcript isn't enough because you just read it. You can be sitting there looking at the images without understanding and you can then turn your attention to the transcript and forget that it's in lock step with the talking heads. The two activities must occur in different parts of the brain. If you're working, especially in plenary, you sometimes get a speech handed into the booth just before the speaker launches forth. If you're lucky you'll have had time to read it through to the end and then translating it is easy as pie. If you only got half way through everything goes swimmingly until you get to that section and then suddenly you lose the ground under your feet. I'm sorry if this has been all around the houses but I've been looking for ways to understand something I'm listening to as if I was reading it. It doesn't seem to be something natural because you can't just think about it. It can't just be Polish because I have other languages and they can be going like the clappers on a subject I know next to nothing about and I get the gist. The difference is that I've been doing that for years. When it gets really hectic I close my eyes. Here as well that technique works. For some strange reason people think that looking at the guy will help or that reading what they're saying will help but actually blocking out both things produces far superior results. But there are other things you can do. Monika and Kazimierz are still going at it hammer and tongs but I've maximised a little section from another interview, with Roman Giertych.
What would happen if you had been reading something in English?
This is taken from John Prescott’s speech to conference this year:
If my head was a pumpkin with a clock face at the equator like Dali’s watch then when I read Prescott it all happens at ten o’clock, somewhere near Seattle (especially the words but I looked at the small print), but when I read the Polish excerpt (especially the nie ³amaæ dla jakiœ tam wzglêdów koniunkturalnych bit), it’s somewhere else, two o’clock or thereabouts, east of Germany). If I was doing it in English I would take lines from The Journey of the Magi by T.S.Eliot
I carry little bits of poetry around with me but for some reason I’ve never memorised a poem in Polish. If I wanted to remind myself where Polish was I would learn Slowka by Szymborska:
Not the whole thing, just the bit about the walrus herders.
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