David has given us a lot to think about this week. You will find in this edition a nod towards each of the following old favourites in the world of language learning and interpreting./p>
1. The benefits of repetition for learning; 2. the benefits of learning phrases rather than individual words (AKA The lexical approach to language learning); 3. a lesser known but equally useful trick: that of having your own ready-to-use target language versions of common expressions from the source language (all jotted down somewhere for reference) - these would be expressions that might not be that easy to translate on spec in the booth or in consec and which you don't really want to render literally; 4. in encouraging you to work at 3. David is pushing you towards the necessary realisation that some things are just expressed differently in the other language (often because a different culture thinks about the same thing from a different angle); and for good measure 5. the knack (useful in consec) of noting one word that brings back whole ideas, sentences or expressions to your mind.
For some strange reason I find Polish phrases eminently forgettable and I’m not sure why that is. At the same time on the page they are instantly recognizable. Every so often an expression catches my eye especially when it fits the bill exactly and I set it as the password for my e-mail, the single most valuable piece of information to me. For six months or so I’ll sign on with Zesietakwyraze or Niemadrugiejtakiejzieminaswiecie and you would think that a phrase your fingers can tap out unthinkingly would be available for instant recall but they’ve never occurred to me when I was talking to somebody.
The only success I’ve had in the delicate art of pressing dead horses into service has been with flashcards or fiszki. After much experimentation I found that squared index-cards were the best, measuring seven squares by 13, which I hold in my left hand, pushing the top one up with my thumb and manoeuvring it round the back. If you shuffle them and get half of them upside down and the wrong way round, fiddling them back into order makes your fingers very nimble although for some reason it’s a left-hand thing, when I try the right hand it quickly degenerates into fifty-two card pickup.
I’ll go over the set w kolko (again and again) for a couple of days, in queues, on the metro, in the booth until recall becomes automatic and the only limitation is how quickly I can physically move to the next one. Then I put an elastic band around them and start another lot. Here’s the current batch:
Thoughts occur to you as you cycle through them:
there is something offputting about a page filled with notes, they interfere with each other, like in a crowded lift, when one person gets out everyone shuffles around to give themselves more personal space, here the English version is stripped down to basics, like a note in consecutive and sits there in splendid isolation, looking at you, why did I write down pot, to pot a snooker ball, one for the pot, a potshot, not pot as in the Polish for sweat, it’s definitely an English pot, oh yeah, of course, the pot calling the kettle black
if you read them out slowly and deliberately it speeds up the process of memorisation, you go through the possibilities, it may say trzasna³ drzwiami but you’ll soon find yourself saying trzaskaæ drzwiami, trzaskam drzwiami, trzaskasz drzwiami, trzasne³y drzwiami until you’ve gone through the entire gamut your morphological powers allow, like a goldfish growing to the size of its aquarium
just for a short while comes from The Jean Genie by David Bowie, but importantly it’s not an exact translation, so after a few repetitions I don’t know which one was the original, they become definitions of each other
the word suffice comes complete with connotations and register, suffice it to say, who could say that, repeat it a few times and you slip into an upper crust frame of mind, the stress begins to fall resoundingly on the second syllable of suffice, you would need a classical education, it would have come naturally to Bertrand Russell, simplifying a complicated demonstration, and doœæ powiedzieæ must have the same ring to it, it’s much more than the sum of its parts, there’s doœæ and there’s powiedzieæ and then there’s doœæ powiedzieæ, it would sound right coming from Gra¿yna Szapolowska, “doœæ powiedzieæ, i¿ jest to jedna z najlepszych rodzimych komedii...”
to this very day is very good for po dziœ dzieñ (or vice versa) because it’s not just the words, it’s the sound and the shape, like Wolverhampton Wanderers, imagining how it could have been used and why, but what struck me then and what sticks with me to this very day is the image of a writer standing on principle in the face of overwhelming disapproval, or Po dziœ dzieñ - mimo burzliwych dziejów tych ziem - zachowa³o siê na Mazowszu ca³kiem sporo siedzib œredniozamo¿nych w³aœcicieli ziemskich. Eventually the images overlap and interact, what struck me then, and what strikes me now is that to this very day quite a few of those ancestral piles are still to be found...
why did I jot down seldom for rzadko który, it must have seemed like a template, I was thinking of rzadko kiedy, as in rzadko kiedy zdarza siê, ¿e 2 czêœæ filmu jest lepsza od pierwszej, but then rzadko gdzie must be possible too, Rzadko gdzie Wining & Dining to taka frajda, jak w Wiedniu, you hear the same thing in the street, gdzie kurwa, kiedy kurwa...
for some reason there are ones that go in immediately, the way there’s always an easy red, or at least one that’s easier than the rest (Ostatnia Wieczerza) and one that just refuses to cooperate, co przenikaly na wskros niebiosy, even though it must sound like na glos, and it has echoes of a-cross, I hesitate every single time, imagine if John Lennon had recorded a Polish version, how would he have phrased it...
for some strange reason is one of my favourite phrases and there’s virtually not a meaningful pause in conversation where it won’t slot in, I wonder if nie wiadomo z jakich pobudek could be used in the same way, or perhaps nie wiedziec czemu, which reminds me of my inability to use the word no, except one day when I was asked if I wasn’t cold without a coat and I said no (what do you think?) exactly the right way, but it was an accident, I was actually saying no (me cold? never) with a Glaswegian accent.
I’ve just counted them, there are 61 fiszek, is that significant?
in Scottish flit means to move house, but a bird flits from branch to branch, it’s onomatopoeic, like fleet of foot, flutter and flight, a million miles from przeskakiwaæ, but z galêzi na gal¹Ÿ has that same delicate feel of a bird alighting and darting around
after a while, if you put your cards away, you can’t remember if you learned a particular phrase but things you come out with will have elements drawn from various phrases, in the same way that in your head certain ones form groups, od rana do wieczora, po dzis dzien, dzien po dniu, chocby na chwile, rzadko ktory, w cwierc wieku po, I hadn’t noticed but I must look out for time phrases, or na wskros niebiosy, mijac sie z prawda, wystawic na probe, Ostatnia Wieczerza, cnota zostala wynagrodzona, dyspensa papieska, znikly z powierzchni ziemi, pada na kleczki, that’s a group. Or phrases that are obviously versatile, cos na ksztalt, dosc powiedziec, nie chce uogolniac, ze wzgledow czysto praktycznich, bez wiekszego skutku, or concatenations of sesquipedalians, niespieszny neapolitanski przechodzien o nienagannych manierach towarzyskich wywolal wspomnienia od rana do wieczora ale to nie on narzucal ton...
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