... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Monday, August 15, 2011

369: Stół z powyłamywanymi nogami

Imagine if the first English word you learnt (besides sausage) was floccinaucinihilipilification. An obtuse introduction to a now apparently difficult language; one designed to leave non-speakers forever on the outside. The first Polish word I have learnt (besides kiełbasa) is powyłamywanymi meaning 'snapped off or broken out', as in the sentence Stół z powyłamywanymi nogami; 'a table with its legs broken out'. It's a tongue twister, even fairly difficult for the fluent Polish-speaker.

Learning from the written word means first relearning to read familiar letters; to associate different sounds with everyday symbols. This is a pretty huge upheaval; indeed it's a paradigm shift of sorts. W becomes V, C becomes Tz, and a new entry that looks like L, ł is pronounced W (as in word). This is pretty tough to remember. Not as tough as learning the katakana and hiragana of Japanese. Japanese for the beginner is often translated into our familiar Roman alphabet – romaji – but even that, designed by James Hepburn in 1887, requires some relearning. For instance E becomes Ay as in day, and I becomes Ee as in seek. So Eigo (meaning the English language) is pronounced somewhere between ay-go and ay-ee-go.

At least Polish has some kind of standardised spelling which might make it easier to learn. Largely speaking, each letter is always pronounced the same. English doesn't work like this, and for that reason it's apparently very difficult to learn, but great fun to master and play games with. Even after listening repeatedly to the audio file saying Stół z powyłamywanymi nogami I still can't say it. I think powyłamywanymi is pronounced something like poh-vi-wu-mi-vu-ni-mih; being able to say that has no use except perhaps allowing for an Eddie Izzard style le singe est sur le branche situation. Nobody needs that.

And now I'm an expert non-speaker of another language. First Japanese, now Polish; soon I'll be pretending to know a bit about all the world languages I don't speak including Esperanto, Mayan, Klingon and whatever it was the cuneiform peoples spoke... and those ones with all the tongue clicks. I bet Michel Thomas method hasn't tackled many of these yet.

Speaking of Polish, yesterday I tried making my first ever Polish recipe; zrazy. You take sirloin steak, bash it flat, cut it into big strips, salt and pepper it (I used a bit of chili flakes too), spread it with dijon mustard, add a couple of slices of smoked streaky bacon, pop on some thinly chopped pieces of Polish style pickles, roll the think up and tie it with string. Lightly fry them until brown then throw in some onions, etc (carrots, mushroom, celery, whatever) then cover the whole thing with stock. Simmer for one hour. Serve the beef rolls with the veg and a little of the stock/sauce. We had roast potatoes too. Best thing I've eaten in ages. And better than a table with its legs broken out.


Brian Barker said...

Thanks for an interesting article Kevin. I wouldn't compare Klingon with Esperanto, however. Especially because Esperanto is designed to be an international language, whereas Klingon is not.

Probably less than 10 percent of all educated people have even heard of Esperanto so do not know that, for example, the Esperanto Wikipedia has about 150,000 articles, (which get about 400,000 views per day). By contrast the total number of articles about Klingon in Wikipedia total only 189, and nothing has been added since 2006.

A pity also that it is not generally known that you may find Esperanto speakers in more than 130 countries. Or that more people in Burundi per head of the population speak Esperanto than in any other country. Thirty schools in Burundi teach Esperanto ; how many teach Klingon?

Kevin Bradshaw said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks for your comment and the link to your website, Esperanto Lobby. You have sufficiently piqued my interest in the subject that I intend to learn a little more about it. I may also attempt to learn enough that I can write a blog post or two in Esperanto.

Although I am not entirely convinced of its practical usefulness in human communication, as a lover of words, language and music I do find it intriguing. Good link here with explanations on Esperanto: How and Why to Learn Esperanto.