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.

Read by Number or Color by Number?

Before nano-processors in your pocket did all the memorizing for you, back in 1974, a fad whispered and died before anyone knew it existed — memorizing numbers for profit and fun. I wasn’t interested in fun and profit, nor in memorizing my mother-in-law’s phone number,  but I was interested in reading numbers. To cut to the rabbit hole, the concept piqued an interest that is still peaking..

Parlor tricks interest me less than basketball in a mad enough March.

Any of the way, it’s formally known as the Major System.

Bill, you major in minor interests don’t you?

You are correct sir. The more arcane and uninteresting the endeavor, the more profound my fascination.

Let’s say you have trouble remembering an all-important number — such as 42.

The sound of a 4 is R. The sound of a 2 is N. RN ran Iran ron run rune rain

Major-System

But what if you need to remember your towel and don’t have a word/number number/word dictionary at hand. Problemo No-o. W counts as a consonant in Arabic, but not in the language of System-Major.

Identify two (2) consonants — T and L. T sound denotes 1. L sound denotes 5.

15

Wow vowels are not explicitly expressed, so choose the consonantal combo that works for you.

Now turn your word-number/number-word dictionary upside down and look up the number 15. What have we there? What have we?

towel.day

Let me explain something — the number 1 can be a T, the number 1 can be a D. This is something I call the Ta Da phenomenon.

But Bill, does this have anything to do with German language?

Of course it does. When I taught German (a lot) it seemed important to invent a hokey-butt theory to explain similarities between German and English. My theory posits that the original Saxons, on their way to the British Isles, decided to celebrate their immigration by tweaking German into something that could become English. They did this en route. No one has ever reported this language-building event for the simple reason that none of it happened.

 

Map-England-Invasions_c

 

Are you trying to say something, Bill? You lost us in Calais.

Yeah. The language-building team chose phonetically related consonants to do stuff like. I’m like, like you know, like instead of UTTER like say like UDDER — just to be different I guess.

Bill. We’re in the other room watching madness march, we can’t hear you. Titter, titter.

Tidder, tidder.

Let us look at another pair here: B to V.

Über-over oben-above eben-even.

Wer hat eine Frage? (Does anyone have a question?)

 

Could you close the door, Bill. We’re watching the game.

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.

 

 

 

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).