is thems the thoughts of cows?
Since I've been in Germany taking this little break from reality, I've had lots of time to read for fun - something I never did while in school and working. I read something near thirty books (nerd alert) during the cold of this winter, among them, pretty much everything David Sedaris has published. Total literary candy. Once I started reading them, I couldn't help myself from devouring more. I like to think that Sedaris and I have a lot in common - we're both unusually small people who get carried away living out fantasies in our minds. We both seem to have a "let's see where life takes me" (read: impulsive) approach to life. We both take a more experiential (read: lazy) approach to learning language, as evidenced in many of his hilarious memoirs, most notably When You Are Engulfed In Flames and Me Talk Pretty One Day.
Here are a few of my favorite excerpts about his ex-pat attempts at learning French:
“On my fifth trip to France I limited myself to the words and phrases that people actually use. From the dog owners I learned "Lie down," "Shut up," and "Who shit on this carpet?" The couple across the road taught me to ask questions correctly, and the grocer taught me to count. Things began to come together, and I went from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. "Is thems the thoughts of cows?" I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window. "I want me some lamb chop with handles on 'em.”
“I find it ridiculous to assign a gender to an inanimate object incapable of disrobing and making an occasional fool of itself. Why refer to lady crack pipe or good sir dishrag when these things could never live up to all that their sex implied?”
“What's the trick to remembering that a sandwich is masculine? What qualities does it share with anyone in possession of a penis? I'll tell myself that a sandwich is masculine because if left alone for a week or two, it will eventually grow a beard.”
And, an excerpt from "Jesus Shaves," my favorite story of all. He nice, the Jesus.
Language has never been my strong-suit. It's far too linear to appeal to my mostly right-brain (read: flighty) way of life. I realized this first while suffering through a miserable three years of high school French classes, but that didn't stop me from trying my hand at Spanish in college and then moving to Germany post-grad to see if I could successfully learn a language by sheer force.
Things are going pretty much exactly as I expected, considering my track record. I can understand most of what I hear in day-to-day conversation, but I usually clam up when it's my turn to talk. I probably only have around 150 words committed to memory and I've created a nice little cocoon of English-speaking friends to keep me safe. My one proud accomplishment? I get asked for directions with a surprising frequency, which I've taken to mean is because I look like a local. I'm proud to say that I've successfully provided directions to several people. In English, of course.