MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “languages”

Finding new worlds

https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which_Language_Should_You_Learn_1.jpgLearning a language is like opening up your mind to new worlds. Because if you can train your brain to think, read, speak, communicate in more than one language, you are pretty much ready to open yourself up to anything: new cultures, new ways of thought, new people, new traditions, new…everything. Languages open a door to another world. And this is no exaggeration.

People who love to read, love to learn. They are the people who can not sit still for too long. They are too restless to understand what it means to literally do ‘nothing’. They are the people who will be constantly seeking new things to do, new activities to keep their mind occupied with. The ones whose brain is always plugged, associating everything with anything and searching for more things to do, even before finishing previous pending ones. These are the people who are active learners, who read things and try to find something worthwhile to get out of them and who will make use of their new knowledge as soon as they can. These are the people who make learning seem like a game. And these are the same people who have a talent in learning, especially languages.

For some, it is easy learning a new language. It is like playing a game – you learn new words, new grammar, new phrases; you hear people talk in a different way; and you obtain another way of looking at the world. Your perspective changes because you become even smaller in a world that is so vast. What changes is that you can now communicate with a few more people in it.

Learning languages are essential. Because it makes us acknowledge that there is so much more out there for us than the narcissistic walls in which we confines ourselves. If we open up our minds to new things, we will create the new opportunities and a worthy future we so strive to find.

Helping out a friend with a guest post

guest-post-blog-dream-creativity-love-joy-tantra-gift-economy1It’s always great to help out a friend. Especially one you share a blogging passion with. Jackie asked me to write a guest post for her wonderful blog. And of course I accepted.

So head over here to find out exactly how weird writers and translators are, especially when they are mentally grappling alone with the multitude of works that are muddled up in their heads.

Thanks Jackie!

Riding in the plane with noise

aerial-view-vi-airplane-flying-over-valencia-in-spain-headed-east-towards-the-mediterranean-sea-john-a-shironFedra was traveling for the first time after news of the serious plane crash had surfaced in the media. Although she was a very frequent flyer and never faced any severe plane-related episodes other than the occasional turbulence during bad weather, this time she was a bit afraid. Falling planes had become a kind of a notorious trend lately and the media depiction of the situation was not helping. Just in case, she took a light sedative before boarding.

Everything had proceeded normally. So far.

She noticed the flight was full of many foreigners. And old people. But she took no notice. What difference would it make anyway?

As soon as the plane took off, though, it began.

The noise. The unbearable noise. And it was not coming from the engines.

It was emerging from the old ladies sitting exactly behind her. They were separated by an old man who was unlucky enough to be seated in the middle of this missile exchange of very loud words. Foreign words of a language Fedra could not detect. Maybe something Arab-related? Or perhaps it was Dutch? For some reason the unfamiliarity of the words also made them sound all the more louder. She couldn’t understand whether the women were excited of traveling, of being on a plane, or simply chatterboxes. But they were so loud, even the person ten rows further down complained. Not even the flight attendants could do anything about this. The old ladies couldn’t hear well either, so even telling them to keep it down had to be done loudly and then everything simply became worse.

People all across the plane were hoping food would be served soon to get them to shut up. But that didn’t work either.

Food just made the old ladies even louder, as they were munching and chatting at the same time, probably criticising the food, the service, and who knows what else.

Then the on board purchases had their round and the old ladies got so excited that they stopped the cart and were asking to see things – mostly jewelry – for about ten minutes. The stewardess was not able to accurately decipher what the old ladies were saying, as their foreign language differed greatly from English, and this caused even the stewardess to sigh numerous times. She eventually walked away fifteen minutes later without having managed to sell anything.

The noise continued though.

Passengers trying to get some sleep were now complaining of living a nightmare, while literally everyone was checking the time, hoping the plane would land soon so this martyrdom would end.

It is unavoidable to travel with noise. It is part of human behaviour. But why have we all become so insensitive to every one else around us that we simply do not give a chicken’s feather what anyone else thinks, or if we are causing them discomfort?

When the plane finally landed, the pilot himself opened the cockpit door and requested to see who was making all that noise. When he saw two elderly women picking up their canes and holding on to the unfortunate old man-in-the-middle, he was stunned. How so much noise could be coming out of such a feeble “container” was a mystery to him. And to the control tower to whom he had been reporting.

What the old ladies (and the other passengers) didn’t know, is that right behind them sat a reporter from their hometown who had been recording everything they were saying. Something which he later used for his own reportage. Fedra still didn’t know how, but a few days later she had seen the two familiar faces on a foreign news bulletin during a TV zapping surge one afternoon.

The moral ending is, be considerate of others around you. If nothing else, you never know who might be listening and what consequences that may have.

Also part of Daily Prompt: What a Twist!

The world in a box

Opened empty heart shaped box isolated on white.When Matteo gave Chiara the little red heart-shaped box he wasn’t expected the shrill of delight that came out of her. He was always amazed at how much noise could come out of such a small person. But seeing a three-year old sparkle with joy and jump and down with excitement, was enough to wipe every worry from his mind. She was simply adorable. And that little box would change her life forever.

Chiara was a curious child to begin with. She loved learning and accumulated knowledge like a sponge. When she was three, Matteo thought she was ready to delve into a new world. That of languages. And he was right. Chiara loved it. She found learning a language was like playing a non-stop game. Having fun, but all the while learning. Learning things you never knew existed. About different traditions, cultures, people, who were in a country far away. But knowing how to speak their language also increased her chances of meeting them, of being able to communicate with them, of visiting their land, of entering their world. And that was the most precious of all.

From them on every five years, Matteo would give Chiara a little box. One that would hold the key to a bigger box with all the necessary material to learn a new language. Within five years, Chiara had become proficient in that gift-language and was thirsty for more. She couldn’t hide her excitement every time Matteo appeared with a box in hand. The lust for knowledge grew as her world expanded.

By the time she was twenty-five, Chiara could already speak six languages (her mother-tongue and the five gifts). She was much more open-minded, informed and knowledgeable than other people her age. For while her peers spent hours on social media and digital screens, she used her time more productively, playing language games, reading foreign media, and making friends from abroad. So when she decided to take a month off to physically visit the places whose language she had so profoundly studied, she had people ready to welcome her and show her the life of a local and not just the tourist sights.

Learning languages, prevented the clouds from shadowing Chiara’s sight. She was able to grow up with a more extensive view to the world. With friends across the globe and with a deeper understanding of how the world works that she could ever learn through a single educational system. She became wiser, simply for wanting to learn more. And for that she was richer than Matteo could ever hope she would be. Solely because he thought of a special gift, hidden in such a small box.

Catching that Zen moment

travel 2It already starts during the return trip. That feeling of melancholy that slowly creeps up on you when you are about to depart from a place at which you’ve spent a few amazing days. You’ve already sort of lost touch with reality, at least for a while having left aside your routine, even if you worked during your trip.

No matter what the reason for a trip, a change of location certainly offers a breath of fresh air. Scientists have even argued that traveling is good for the health because it creates new neurons and it augments optimism and the feeling of happiness. Indeed the fascination of going somewhere else, somewhere you don’t see on a daily basis, triggers in you a wave of excitement that in fact also makes you a much more positive person and brings on more smiles.

Traveling is also good for the soul. It opens your mind to new cultures and mentalities, it allows you to discover new places and meet new people, and it makes you more dynamic and sociable, particularly if you try to engage in the ‘normal’ life of the location and not simply follow the tourist route.

But the worst part is when you are preparing to leave. That is the instance when it hits you that the fun is sort of over. That you have to leave the friends you’ve stayed with to return to your routine, however agreeable that may be. Somehow, whenever you return to your home and familiar surroundings, nothing seems the same. You see everything differently, at first often with an inevitable comparison, and something always seems to be missing. It does take a while to reacclimatize yourself. Especially if for so many days you were speaking a different language, as at home this would offer an additional incentive for people to consider you a foreigner in your own country.

It is difficult to return to base. Just imagine how astronauts would feel. Nonetheless, there is nothing to regret. The trip has certainly opened up your mind, relaxed your soul, and soothed your heart. And that alone is something to be grateful for. For having the luxury to travel. To see other cultures, (re)encounter friends, and reach that Zen moment that escaped you for so long.

How to spend 8 hours in an airport

photoAirports are supposed to be interesting places to spend time in. There are so many people to observe and so much to absorb. Yet sometimes spending too much time in an airport is not that exciting, no matter how big it is and how many shops there are. Especially if you spend a third of your day in there and arrive so early that your flight does not even appear on the boards. Nonetheless, here are some things I learnt while waiting for a flight home:

–   Airports are perhaps the busiest places there are, with people all yelling in their own languages as though no one else can understand them, to the extent that you can hear every word they are saying (particularly when you understand the language) even despite the loud music coming from your headphones.

–   There are rude and kind people everywhere. You would just expect an airport to have more of the latter. Not everything is so obvious in a huge airport with a global population moving around in there – like for example the fact that you need to search for the right machine to issue your boarding pass before checking in your baggage.

–   Some security checks are just over-exaggerated. Especially if the security control is borderline molestation. Next thing you know they’ll be x-raying underwear for explosives…

–   Airports that are as huge as those in Central Europe have the luxury of offering guided tours. Because that is the way to spend your time there. And your money.

–   Some airports advertise “duty free for all”. What they don’t tell you is that the prices are all increased so you think they are cheaper than outside…

–   The shop windows at airports are extremely enticing. Then you go in and they tell you they don’t have the items advertised.

–   Why is water in Germany so expensive? – half a litre is €3. It is as if they don’t have a great river flowing through the country…

–   The time I spent wandering in the airport, my friend who left five hours before me could have actually caught another flight to his home and have landed before I even boarded the plane.

–   Having slept for 20 hours over the past five days, you realise this was not enough. And you start thinking in French, talking in German while everyone thinks you are either Italian or Spanish (but never Greek which you are). At least you’re European.

–   In this digital age everyone is constantly looking at a screen. And a place to charge it. Even when walking in the middle of a very busy airport.

This post was written and posted while at the gate before boarding. By the time I arrive I will have completed 14 hours travel time. Or rather, waiting time.

Written at Frankfurt airport on 13 April 2014.

Also part of Daily Prompt: Terminal Time

Also part of Daily Prompt: In Transit

Becoming the Ulysses of Europe

languages_of_the_worldMulticulturalism makes us more human, and in turn more European. When we are receptive to external stimuli from different languages and cultures we ourselves become richer in every way. Coming from someone who speaks 32 languages, both active and ‘dead’, who has studied the history and origins of most known languages, and who has travelled the world in order to speak them, this statement carries considerable weight.

Ioannis Ikonomou is one of the hundreds of translators that work for the European Commission. What makes him stand out though is his thorough knowledge of dozens of languages and the enthusiasm with which he expresses his passion for learning languages.

‘I don’t learn languages to have them in dictionaries gathering dust’ he explains. Languages are learnt to be lived. And the best part of learning a language is that it enriches your life, it allows you to travel to different places and communicate with the locals in their own language, to delve into new cultures, new mentalities, and different ways of life.

Language learning should begin from a young age, from the moment the mind can start soaking up new words and new worlds and when the sound of different tongues serves as a stimulus for a life of globe-trotting. That is what happened with Ikonomou who says that it was the sounds made by foreign tourists on his home island of Crete that inspired him to start learning languages. Indeed, learning to communicate in the language of the ‘other’ opens up more doors than a ‘common’ language ever will. The late Nelson Mandela said, ‘if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’

Ikonomou tells me how his knowledge of languages has helped him read literature he would have never been able to discover had he not known the corresponding languages. He says that many Hungarian, Turkish, Polish, Romanian and other great writers have not even been translated into English. When you invest time to learn a language, you expect to reap the fruits of your labour – and just as money breeds greed, language learning breeds a burning desire for life experiences, memories, and friendships. This is what it really means to be European. Breaking monolingual language barriers and stepping into the realm of the ‘other’ – that’s what it’s all about. By learning languages you allow yourself to engage and interact with different cultures, values and traditions.

Every language is a different world, a different way of life, a unique mentality, and as such even the simplest of words (for example ‘bread’) will have different connotations in every language. Translators and interpreters have a difficult job. Ikonomou knows this well, having served as both. But at the same time he relishes the mental challenge offered by his job, because, as he says, leaping from language to language is a fantastic exercise. It is like balancing between worlds.

Having studied linguistics, Ikonomou knows that learning the history and origins of languages helps you to better understand your own. In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ‘those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.’

Multiculturalism and multilingualism imply openness. They suggest that you are able to escape the introvert phobias that are prevailing in Europe with the rise of the far-right, and that you are able to live with and learn from the ‘other’. Ulysses was enriched by the cities he encountered and the people he met, says Ikonomou as he recites a lyric from Homer in ancient Greek. Ulysses was much more prosperous than his son Telemachos who stayed in Ithaca all his life, and as such Ikonomou declares, ‘I want to be Ulysses,’ living in an open society. He dreams of an open society receptive to stimuli and different people from around the world, because it is only when we embrace each other’s cultures and languages that we will truly be able to live harmoniously with one other.

Ikonomou says that he doesn’t want to live his life stuck in a daily routine.  What better way to break free from schedules than delving into a different world, culture and way of life? By truly learning what ‘united in diversity’ means, and by being able to acquire an insight into the customs and life of our European neighbours.

This article was published on cafebabel.com on 18 December 2013, under the title “I speak 32 languages”. It has since been translated into Spanish, Italian, French and Polish.

The language of hello

Parisian_Cafe_1Sébastien met Lucia in a café in Paris. Their eyes met and it was as if they clicked instantly. Sébastien didn’t know Spanish. Nor did Lucia know French.

“¡Hola!” he said timidly as he approached her table. The Parisian café was half-full this afternoon, so there was no need to shout to be heard. Sébastien could feel his cheeks firing up. He was shy after all, and it didn’t take much for him to blush.

“¡Hola! Eres español?” chirped Lucia, her eyes gleaming with excitement at the sound of her native language in a foreign place.

“Eeehh…” Sébastien stuttered, lost for words. “What do I say now?”, he thought to himself.

Lucia was the type of beauty that fit the stereotype of “being Spanish” – long brown hair, a smile that mesmerized you, and crystal brown eyes that pierced right through you.

On the other hand, Sébastien was a tall, blond timid French boy. One that was raised in a mentality of nationalism that prevented him from properly learning a foreign language.

“Em,” he continued, “moi…sit…ici?” he asked pointing at the empty chair facing Lucia.

“¡Claro!” she replied, with a welcoming gesture.

So he sat there facing her smile. And she gazed in his almond eyes that sunk in his blushing red cheeks. It made her smile even more. But he was not going to give up that easily. If you spotted them from across the room, you would think they were playing pantomime with all the hand gestures going on. But to them, it was a simple effort to communicate.

She knew one-two basic French words. He knew “hello” in Spanish. They both knew very few English.

But three years later, they were still together.

And when they returned to that same Parisian café, Lucia told her friends “this is where he had me at hello!” and they broke into laughter.

Sandrine, their daughter, can speak French, Spanish and English fluently, at 8. They call her “smart-ass” but she knows…it was true love.

 

Also part of Trifecta Writing Challenge – the prompt word was: ass

3. (adverb/adjective) often vulgar—often used as a postpositive intensive especially with words of derogatory implication <fancy-ass>

Post Navigation