Languages, Escape Velocity and Bigly Lies

Learning a second or 3rd or 4th language is like escaping the gravity of your native land. You probe about in another way of being, of thinking, of observing. Better still — if you’ve the inclination — learn another tongue via a second or third language. Meet the stranger in a place foreign to each.

I am so grateful for my Palestinian student who decided to learn German via English, without recourse to his native Arabic. He inspired me to do the same — learn Arabic by way of German. “arabisch lernen”

arabisch.lernen

German from the baby steps to fluency. The magic of YouTube brings me teachers who speak their mother’s Arabic in a German-speaking land. I studied in Germany for a year and a half. The other international students joined me to prepare for lessons conducted in German. Japanese medical students already knew anatomical terms, because their forefathers carried it back to Japan — including decades as fellow Axis members. Gray’s Anatomy with German body parts

Some lessons I’ve learned

Iranian students taught me about Savak and their Shah many years before the Revolution of 1979. Krupp established large industrial site in that Persian land. An industrial giant since the 16th Century. A family tradition, Blut und Eisen.

Propaganda relies upon endlessly repeated mistranslations, designed to obfuscate. Weaponized language to serve hidden agendas, to move geopolitical stakes through sabotage, bigotry, racism, straw men, false flags, pacification, liquidation; in other words, chicanery of any convenient kind. Whatever works. No questions asked.

Walls visible and invisible. Sow the seeds of discontent to ignite anger. Divide and conquer. British imperialists deliberately provoked Sunni and Shia rivalries by locating them within an arbitrary borderline. Think of it as double solitary confinement. A technique that works wonders: encourage each to fight the other over differences deep as the empire gathers spoils of conquest, to the victor go the value subtracted.

History remembered is myth created by the most talented liars. Every American recites the same short soundbites: flag-shaded collective memories. Memorized lies to mask disquieting truth. 1,000 memorized lies. Cherrypick and pass on. Manufacture your destiny as something somehow manifest by a deity for your outrageous fortune. Cloying spoilings.

shadid_lewis
Kresta and Spencer find a convenient fool

Conduct experiments on war fodder soldiers and increase your “intelligence.” Handbooks written by Chinese military master torturers were translated verbatim and reapplied in Guantanamo — word by evil word.

Accuse Cuba of human rights violations while torturing prisoners on Cuban soil. Announce bounties — turn in someone you hate, an enemy or a randomly selected person, a stranger. Get paid for lying about an innocent neighbor. Extraordinary rendition is spuriously twisted language designed by twisted authority to mask torture by proxy. Look the other way. Justify everything. Celebrate the patriotic art of bigly deals. Endless war for endless profit. Drop MOABS and cut a purchase order for replacement MOABS.

This morning I read a piece from Mark Chmiel’s blog — Mistake. Dark serendipity in the same tone and key. Thank you, Mark.

And

Thanks for reading.

LEGO, AUDIO, VIDEO: I Read, I Hear, I See

As April 30 yielded to May 1, I recalled that Old-Time Radio will have passed the wand over to New-Time Television exactly 55 years ago this coming September 30; in fact, the final two shows turned their microphones off on the same day.

JD_Button

In the unlikely event that you have already guessed which two programs made it curtains for that classic era, I roll the timpani — or cue the crickets.

Und so:

  1. Suspense
  2. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

Three suggestions for those new to the realm — a land wide, deep and satisfying.

  1. Vic and Sade
  2. Pat Novak for Hire
  3. Inner Sanctum
Vic-And-Sade-mp3
Paul Rhymer was the genius behind Vic and Sade

I have a soft spot in my heart for programs that settle into my psyche by way of sound waves — words existing on the printed page give your mind the means to fashion words to worlds. To use my sagacious father’s favorite phrase

“Well, let’s put it this way” — I prefer lego (I read) and audio (I hear) to video (I see). Reader or listener rather than viewer, what gives? Reading and listening demand more of the imagination. Theater of the Mind. Not my coined phrase, but dramatically accurate.

 

vacuum.tube.radio.deviant.art

Personally, viewing alone is like drinking alone — the experience doesn’t end well. It might work splendidly for thee, but not for me. In other words, judging my readers is never my aim (file under marginalia).

On with the show.

Watching TV with others involves participation. Joel Hodgson is the genius behind MST 3000 — an absolutely brilliant concept that sets Hodgson’s haplessly condemned yet innocent victim off planet, and forced to watch amazingly bad movies, a torture you may have experienced personally. Joel and his Bots (his own creation by the way) breaks that fourth wall too, perhaps a fifth wall.

Full disclosure: Lisa would rather shout VIDEO, ERGO SUM to my AUDIO, ERGO SUM. Well, let’s put it this way: we complement each other. So there!

video-ergo-sum-680x400
I view, therefor I am

During my years in West Germany (1971 to 1973), watching television was only good for language learning. Here is a recommendation for the next time you surf 255 channels — set subtitles to another language. Better still: watch a foreign film and set the subtitles to a language you want to learn. Experiencing a world without English language is a rare delight. I recommend it most heartily.  🙂

Advertisers want to make you think that the volition is entirely yours. IMO (only?), we do not live in the best of all possible worlds. Though you might be surprised to read that veganism is an effective remedy for that  imposition of schizophrenia upon readers, listeners and viewers. Blood-toothed marketers wish to either introduce or reinforce product loyalty. FTS say I. Out damned blood! FWIW, I pay an annual fee to keep this site advertising-free.

Addendum: I didn’t know that FTS was a sports term, so I pass that torch to my sports broadcasting alter ego. It was intended as a term of frustration directed at frustrating the darker side of advertising. Channel to ESPN-42 for more 🙂

Thanks for reading.

 

 

A SaFaRi into the SaHaRa

My last detour took us to a Picnic (pique-nique in French) in 1934 Grange, Pennsylvania. Here is a footnote to that previous post has ended up in the opening paragraph for this post. You may not have wondered about the Yiddish word shtick . It’s from the German noun Stück (a piece).  

What’s your shtick, Bill?

Yakking  on about different ways to yak away. 

There is just something exhilarating about learning languages. aha-momentHere are three (3) remarkable benefits: 

  1. remove barriers,
  2. erase borders and, if fortune favors,
  3. become less baffled

We’re glad that you are taking a safari into the Sahara. Please tell us less.

Root letters in Arabic do something quite curious. They occur in an ordained order. Here is a root you may have noticed in the title  — SFR. Arabic dictionaries segment meaning through a root system. Grab that Arabic dictionary over there and flip away until you’ve encounter SFR,  see below.

2-%d8%b3%d9%81%d8%b1-sfr

Don’t forget to read from right to left.

Bill, are you going to tell us about a book that teaches Arabic with aplomb?

Yes.

I want to share how much Sugar Comes from Arabic by Barbara Whitesides helped me master Arabic, and have a rollicking time at the same time. It’s an amazingly beautiful ring-bound volume that is simply delightful. As with all my reviews, I just want to pass on good words for great works. It’s what teachers do.

Calligraphy is one of those hobbies I’ve hobbled through with my left-hand. Now I can’t overestimate the unexpected thrill of gently pulling the pen along my paper — no plowing into the paper, or covering up writing while writing.  You may have noticed that English is written from left-to-right.

Let us consider prefixes, suffixes and diacritical marks. Hey you say, there are bunches of words having such and much to do with “travel” in Arabic — words like safari.Hey I say, the Arabic root for desert is SHR. Technically, the Sahara Desert suggests Desert Desert. Here is a fun web page for those wanting yet another resource on Arabic verb forms.sahara

Well that was breathtakingly tedious, but we needed to yawn in order to dispel stale air. But you were heading into a desert, please proceed.

Interesting innit?

 

Here’s another innit —

arabic-sound-heuristic
Here is a useful diagram for associating alphabet whats and wheres. I’ve found it helpful for distinguishing the “sun and moon” letters in Arabic.

Didn’t you write a toss-off post a while back — just trying to change the subject.

Yes — Sudden solitude in a crowded desert, based on a line from T.S. Eliot’s The Family Reunion.

Thanks for reading.

 

Speak Arabic Openly and Joyfully!

Arabic is a tapestry

Modern Standard Arabic is a construct used to help Arabic speakers living over a wide expanse to understand each other. To speak the language, and yet be understood, you have to choose among Arabic dialects specific to particular geographical areas, as suggested by the map below:

Arabic_Dialects.svg

Modern Standard Arabic is akin to Esperanto among its many speakers: about 400 million Arab speakers on this planet of ours!

Lines on a map I’ve viewed 10,000 times mask the neighborhood scenes, but empires find borders (preferably using a straight edge) an expedient means for control.  Africa before Europeans. Is there a downside?  Empires rape as much as they can as fast as they can, but what’s wrong with that?  Endless decadence for one.

My safari (سفر, from Swahili) into Arabic started some years ago when teaching a German class: sample, sample. One student was born in Jerusalem. Palestinians live under constant occupation. Occupied by Ottomans until 1923, British Empire until May 1948, then another legal entity to 2016 and counting (down). But Palestine is a forever place.

I made a good deal “if you can learn some German I can learn some Arabic.” It was a means for transcending culture and stereotypes, the kind explained in the documentary Reel Bad Arabs.

It’s fun tackling curiosities in Indo-European roots. Only recently did I discover that Persian shares Indo-European roots along with most European countries. Their alphabet looks like Arabic, but there isn’t much overlap in vocabulary.

Farsi doesn’t use the root system – a fundamental building-block system for assigning meaning. Arabic dictionaries are arranged by consonant groupings

SFR = SaFaRi, a journey

indo-european-word-history-of-plek

Arabic script is brilliantly beautiful. The Roman alphabet has a tiny toolbox, as useful as thimbles for trumping fingers and thumb IMO.

Latin doesn’t even have lowercase letters and it does not often include curved letters like U when a V will do. But they are easier to chisel into stone.

alan-dunn-does-ex-take-the-ablative-or-the-dative-new-yorker-cartoon

Nothing beats a zero when speaking the language of science. The Romans didn’t get there. To paraphrase the John Cleese (Why does British food suck? “they had an empire to run.” It’s not easy to derive square roots using Roman numerals.

Let me say something about resources: not all Arabic alphabet aids are good. This one helped me the most: Sugar comes from Arabic.

Many Spanish words derive from Arabic. They stayed on after Arabic culture was forceably ejected from Spain in 1492. So at least two all-time epic fails happened in 1492.

The Crusades and the Inquisition (The Church Militant) were not good ideas. Spreading lies like Joseph Goebbels lends not a single grain of truth. Truth went into exile from 1933 to 1945. No literature or art of any value springs forth under Fascism. Nothing good comes of Fascism. “When I hear the word ‘culture’…”

Islamophobia (from the xeno family of racism) will not lead to a better gentler world.

An earlier post on this theme: Thinking about language

 #RumiWasntWhite.

 

 

 

Niemöller and Johst

Niemöller was not a narrow-minded person

Pastor Martin Niemöller’s timeless quote is larger than his name.

First they came for … then … then …there was no one left to speak for me.

first.they.came.for.the.palestinians
from Mondoweiss

Xenophobia is dangerous and narrow-minded. It flourishes on ignorance. It has no redeeming social value.

Ignorance of algebra combined with chutzpah-level arrogance recently became equated with terror. My advice: spend less time removing innocent passengers from flights and spend more time learning about other cultures. 

The Arabic word “InshaAllah” is the most common word spoken by Arabic speakers to express the hope that everything will be OK, such as “Let’s hope for the best.” Not all Arabs are Muslims. Most Muslims are not Arabic.

Curiously enough, the word algebra comes from Arabic; actually a long list of English words come from Arabic

aljabr

Should we be more tolerant of the rabidly intolerant? Let’s consider über orthodox Al Kresta, the broadcaster who owns the drive-time slot on Ave Maria Radio. Mr. Kresta always presents himself as a fair commentator. A couple years ago he announced formation of a panel to answer the question “Is Islam a Religion of Peace.” He selected a new convert to Islam as the panel’s scholar and proceeded to bulldoze the poor guy.

Here is an excerpt on the clever ruse from The American Muslim:

“He will certainly be in over his head, and this “featured debate” will simply be used as an opportunity to humiliate the American Muslim community. Shadid Lewis may mean well, but participating in this very public event without the tools to deal with someone like Robert Spencer is at the very least unwise. And, the fact that Spencer, Kresta, Ave Maria, et al are framing this as a debate between scholars, when that is clearly not the case makes it clear that they have an agenda.”

Al’s guest today was Winston Churchill’s grandson. It did not take long for Kresta to direct the conversation to Islamic jihad and The Church Militant. The takeaway: Winston would have recognized ISIS as a threat similar to Reich 3.

billziegler1947 follows Kresta in the Afternoon so you don’t have to. 

Fear of the stranger may derive from a sense of superiority, privilege or ordained certainty. Xenophobia flourishes best on the dark side: it works like the brain’s autonomic system to profile “the other” as an existential threat. You don’t even have to think about it. Hate goes way beyond rolling the eyes: visceral reactions, racist rants, flying spittle, cognitive dissonance…

cognitive-dissonance-2

We enough personal experience with the human shadow in our cultures, traditions and literatures to know how long that shadow may be cast.

Hanns Johst wrote the play Schlageter

First performed on Hitler’s 44th birthday, 20 April 1933, Schlageter is a play by Hanns Johst. It celebrates the arrival of Adolph Hitler and Reich Number 3. That piece of Nazi theater is the source for “When I hear the word culture…, I release the safety on my Browning!”

SCHLAGETER: Good old Fritz! (Laughing.) No paradise will entice you out of your barbed wire entanglement!

THIEMANN: That’s for damned sure! Barbed wire is barbed wire! I know what I’m up against…. No rose without a thorn!… And the last thing I’ll stand for is ideas to get the better of me! I know that rubbish from ’18 …, fraternity, equality, …, freedom …, beauty and dignity! You gotta use the right bait to hook ’em. And then, you’re right in the middle of a parley and they say: Hands up! You’re disarmed…, you republican voting swine!—No, let ’em keep their good distance with their whole ideological kettle of fish … I shoot with live ammunition! When I hear the word culture …, I release the safety on my Browning!”

SCHLAGETER: What a thing to say!

THIEMANN: It hits the mark! You can be sure of that.

SCHLAGETER: You’ve got a hair trigger.

— Hans Johst’s Nazi Drama Schlageter. Translated with an introduction by Ford B. Parkes-Perret. Akademischer Verlag Hans-Dieter Heinz, Stuttgart, 1984.
It’s not fair to judge a minority of Israelis on the actions of a majority, but the word “Palestinian” twitches thumbs to search for the safety.
Fascism produces no art, no literature. Actually nothing of value, but it is superb at destroying all human values.

 

Thanks for reading.

Africans without Europeans

uncolonized.africa.upside.down

What’s wrong with this map? What’s right? What’s just? Who decides? Who benefits?

Maps are important ways to perpetuate a Big Lie.  Here is Africa from a fresh perspective.

Alkebu-lan is Arabic for “Land of the Blacks.” The map above uses familiar color and shading schemes to name the distinct cultures and people. Human geography.

Zoom in and experience the fractal quality of intense diversity:

sokoto_etcetera
Sokoto Kuilafat surrounded by neighbors. Please read Big-think perspective

 

 

 

The unlabelled land mass at the bottom is the uninhabited realm of lands depopulated by an extinction level event such as Black Death: an alternate history suggested by Frank Jacobs elucidated here:

Africa, Uncolonized: A Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent

A few interesting land areas stand out: places we call Sinai, Levant, Sicily and Spain. Their unexpected presence gives pause.

Please look at this planet from the Other’s perspective, remembering that you too are the “Other.” Call me Ishmael.

The equator is the dashed line. To my eye that great lake in  Alkebu-lan looks like a chick’s eye. What a strikingly different way to look at this enormous continent. The solar system doesn’t have a top and bottom, so I can just imagine visitors from another star system mapping the southernmost continent as the top of the third planet out.

The Latin for the interior sea is Mediterranean: the sea at the middle of Earth. It’s natural but unfortunate to look at the world from where you name “us.” It could be New  York or the Middle Kingdom (China) or Middle Earth.

Anywhere, really.

America must not remain the center for geopolitical advantage studies.

The land of the fulsome and the home of the nice.

Proud to be an Imperialist, where at least…

Here are the paths the genomes took.

out.of.africa.route.ibm
From IBM recombinational analysis on the human genome. Source.

Simply stated, a map projection is a compromise achieved by forcing a sphere in three dimensions onto a two-dimensional surface. Only a globe presents accuracy to scale on behalf of the earth orb, but you can only see one side of the globe at one time. And it doesn’t fit well in your pocket.

When you have looked at the same combination of continents 100,000 times or so, it gradually takes on the ring of “truth.”

Consider the azimuthal equidistant projection for establishing a center point anywhere. It’s the polar opposite (figuratively and literally) of the mercator projection. Mercator places the North Pole at infinity. Azimuthal places Santa’s Workshop at the center of the world.

azimuthal.equidistant.north.pole
Source: David Rumsey Map Collection

Expect maps to push agendas hard. In 1978 the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said produced the book Orientalism,in 1978. It explains the way an occupation force imposes its perspective on the occupied: imposition of language and Eurocentric concept of unchangeable truth.

cecil.rhodes.colossus
The wide stance of Cecil Rhodes as Colossus of Rhodes in this famous cartoon. Founder of the Rhodes Scholarship fund. Before Zimbabwe there was Rhodesia. Cecil left a legacy.

From Allen Webb, my source for Cecil Rhodes, a quote from gentle Cecil:

We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labor that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.

The British imperial overlords used a straight-edge to define borders for the people they exploited before leaving former colonials to sort it all out. Once they left they didn’t look back. What’s past is passed. Let’s just say ‘we’re history.’

Consider the absurd British decision to create an East and a West Pakistan in the South Asia theater of interest and profit. It’s folly most insane. Lord Balfour had as much insight as the architects of East and West Pakistan when he crafted a  67-word statement in 1917.  Nakba is one result. Truth is one casualty.

partioning.colonies.middle.east.british.empire
Arbitrary borders possibly drawn by an idiot with a straight-edge

I mention alternate histories. Here is one such at DeviantArt.Net, a resource for speculative art.

alternate_history_map__1__central_power_victory_by_drawnzilla-d77hpbv

Keep a window open for Yanko Tsvetkov, the cartographer for the indispensable Atlas of Prejudice.

atlas.of.prejudice

Thanks for reading.

Ramallah Mix

Source: Ramallah Mix

I keep current with Palestine. I witness to counter the countless billions of dollars extinguished every day for the united status of quo. In a large enough way I am personally complicit: The State Department issued a passport that verifies my identity.

stone.cold.justice
This is abject primal fear, the kind that arrive when you are out of your mind frightened. It is not a simple detention. 

Palestinians on their own soil live everyday life in a police state every day. It’s just ironic that Israel is a front-runner in the race for fascism.

Video from December, 2015: holiday season.

Did you know that children throwing stones, reported throwing stones, thought to throw stones or not throwing stones are housed in Israeli prisons? The military uses GPS systems to locate a child’s bedroom for 2:00 A.M. visits.

Many Israelis enjoy the occasional guffaw. Who could even think of being offended by humor on a theme of Rachel Corrie pancakes. No one is suggesting that the society might be depraved, decadent or disgusting. Just wondering why I am so thin-skinned and sensitive. Why does that denim have a dark stain?

Thanks Thlwn for posting this video today on Twitter, and for being who you are. Grateful for the thankless task you serve, for your ability to garner humor in the face of evil most banal. It’s not an easy job.

I don’t read about this stuff in the New York Times. I don’t hear about this stuff on NPR. I don’t see this stuff on PBS.  So here I am reporting for duty.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Maps as Propaganda Tools for Large Lies

Nota bene. Lisa has noted under separate cover that a logical argument based on (anti)Semitism is wrong in every respect since both people share the common patriarch Abraham. In 2016 we’re still talking about his two sons: Ishmael and Isaac, brothers where the branches of the Semitic tree meet. Oz & Nichols.

1500 BC, Old Testament prophet Abraham banishes Hagar and her son Ishmael into the wilderness after the birth of Isaac to his aged, barren wife Sarah. Genesis, chapter 16. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1500 BC, Old Testament prophet Abraham banishes Hagar and her son Ishmael into the wilderness after the birth of Isaac to his aged, barren wife Sarah. Genesis, chapter 16. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Today’s question: is it possible to use maps as propaganda (הַסְבָּרָה)?

Does a Mercator projection misrepresent land area?

On your next tour of the “Holy Land” bring home souvenir maps that follow guidelines for “Public Diplomacy: Israel.”

do.economic.ties.corrupt.789.001

An excerpt from a recent Haaretz article describing the brochure below:

The only Muslim site listed is the Dome of the Rock. It’s clear that the map’s editors took pains to omit the Arabic names of sites in the Old City. For example, it uses the terms “Har Habait,” “Temple Mt.” and “Mt. Moriah” for the Temple Mount area, but omits what most Old City residents call it – Haram al-Sharif, or Al-Aqsa. In fact, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is illustrated but not named; the area east of it is marked as Solomon’s Stables.

jerusalem.propaganda.tourist.map

 

Actually I remember Dr. Laurence G. Wolf once mentioning this topic around 1967 in a geography class at the University of Cincinnati. It was the year of the 1967 War, when Israel occupied the West Bank of the Jordan River, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. Now in 2016 Israel has only returned the Sinai Peninsula (to Egypt), but no land ever to a single Palestinian: the original residents of Palestine. Before May 14, 1948 most Palestinians lived near the Mediterranean Coast

I haven’t yet found examples for the Czech map mentioned in that class but I do remember that it depicted the Sudetenland as a range of sharp teeth about to champ on a tasty morsel. The German cartographers fashioned maps to represent a clear and present danger: militant Polish horse-powered troops getting ready to thrust their force into 1939 Germany.

 

czech.threatens.germany
Looks like Prague could devastate the German Reich, quick as a snap.

 

verlorenes.land
A knife to the soft underbelly of Greater Germany, or bloody teeth? Your guess or mine I guess.

German Grammar in the Everyday Every Day

Fashioning a German Lesson Plan from Anything at Hand

Class topic of the day (des Tages): how picking up a plastic bag off the street and reading the language printed on that bag may help you learn language. The one I have here is your classic bad-news-for-the-environment plastic bag. I retrieved one for each of you, so it’s a handout. Later in the day you can three-hole punch this handout and put it in your binder under today’s date.

handout
Your handout for this class: Let’s say I had snagged this bag from under a parked car in the Kröger lot, before the plastic could pose a wildlife hazard. Now it’s in the lesson plan as an instructional resource. Note: 3 holes have not yet been punched. Please include margin notes using your felt-tip pen. Thank You. THANK YOU.

Today’s exercise allows you to use innate perceptual senses to discern meaning from everyday texts, and to discover potential contexts for your favorite words. Remember that new knowledge is fragile knowledge, so be gentle with yourself and feel free to make mistakes. In this class the student who makes the most mistakes gets the highest mark since she learns from her own mistakes. Also, if the present-moment reader finds an error in this post I get a point.

Use this bag later in your life for sandwiches, knickknacks, sturdy water bottles and items with words written upon them.

Anyway, pick up your red Sharpie and write ‘rot‘ on the handout. Think about how similar ‘t’ and ‘d’ sound: “Ta Da!” and recall the apocryphal tale of Saxons (Sachsen) moving to England to start a new language. On that hypothetical boat Saxons decided to change their ‘t’ to a ‘d’ and say ‘good‘ rather than ‘gut‘ and day instead of ‘Tag‘. And then call it English.

migration routes around 800 C.E.
migration routes around 800 C.E.

Draw a rainbow with your Sharpies and label each color separately in your language of choice or else in German. Gather the things you want to put in your handout. Label that bag with its contents, z.B.:

  • Apfel (grüner)
  • Brot (rotes)
  • Papier (weißes)
  • Banane (gelbe oder grüne oder schwarze oder schwarzgelbe oder oder oder)
  • Apfelsaft (süßer)

Now place each object (each noun) into the bag (in die Tüte) and take a walk (einen Spaziergang machen). Connect the Umlaut dots atop the ‘u’ to form an ‘o’, thus reminding you just how crafty those dang Saxons were (Tüte becomes tote). Those tapfere Sachsen even simplified the ‘chs’ in their former German language to an ‘x’ in the new language (nächste becomes next).  While on this relaxing stroll let your friends (strangers optional) know about the contents of your bag:

Hallo. Hier in meiner Tüte habe ich einen grünen Apfel. Gebrauchtes Papier ist immer das Beste. Glaubst du das.

Let’s say you forget to bring your own shopping bag to Kröger. At least save those plastic hazards in your vehicle or Rücksack and drop them into the fiber recycling drum in their foyer (the place where you grab a shopping cart).

German Grammar: Strong and Weak

Why is German easier to read than English? And why am I writing this post in English? Those are the questions for today’s class. First, let’s take a break and read about the Mann family residences during the Exile Period. This time in Manhattan: 1938. Read the text and then watch the video at the end of the web page.

 

 

 

Thomas Manns zweites Zuhause im Exil

You can mark, highlight, underline and pronounce strong and weak endings as you encounter them.

Again, you might want to grab some discarded envelopes from the waste basket and jot down the strong and weak endings you hear. If there is room on the back of the envelope you could note the occurence of weak endings as follows, since they can only be ‘e’ or ‘en’

z.B.:

e – IIII

en – III

Of course, an adverb is distinguished from an adjective by its lack of an ending, an adjective is distinguished from an adverb by the presence of an ending.

Now back to our first question: Why is German easier to read than English?

Since case is a signal for function the first or second word in a German sentence often signals that function. Try doing that with ‘the’. So, Let us say that a sentence begins with ‘dem’. It has to be dative and it could be either masculine or neuter. We also know that it signals an indirect object or a prepositional object that takes dative only or a preposition that indicates all action occuring within a bounded area for those prepositions of relative position. All that by reading only one or two words.

Now, on to the second question: And why am I writing this post in English? By seeing ‘dem’ we immediately know all those things discussed in the previous paragraph. I first really learned German in 1971. Reading ‘the’ in English conveys nothing of that panoply of information conveyed by ‘dem’. Unless you are a young person learning German from a parent or a playmate you are unlikely to determine the meaning of ‘dem’ on your first encounter with the language.

The bell is about to ring, ending this class. Let me end with a metaphor. A German noun looks to its left for a strong ending that signals a function. By seeing that strong ending it knows its function or at least it narrows the number of functions. The adjective to the right of the strong ending sees that strength and relaxes, knowing that it can now become weak (e or en). If that same adjective does not see strength it cannot relax: it has to take on the strength itself. No chance for weakness. If that noun sees an ein word to the left without an ending (ein, mein, dein, sein, unser, euer, etc.) it says to itself “An ein is certainly not an einem or an eines or an einen, so it looks like I am on my own, so the adjective to the right of ‘ein’ will just have to take on the strong ending.

For homework grab any German text and think about nervous nouns looking to the left for support.