fredag, oktober 12, 2007

Classy Behavior

A horse-drawn cart surprises a shopper on the narrow streets of Stockholm's Old Town, Gamla Stan.

Who can resist the pun title? Not me. I've spent too many years working in publishing not to have developed an inflated sense of the pun's worthiness. I quote Kingsley Amis quoting HW Fowler in Amis' book The King's English:
The assumption that puns are per se contemptible, betrayed by the habit of describing every pun not as a pun but as a bad pun or a feeble pun, is a sign at once of sheepish docility and a desire to seem superior. Puns are good, bad, and indifferent, and only those who lack the wit to make them are unaware of that fact.
(Amis does go on to say puns are clustered probably too thick in newspaper headlines, and he's probably right, but I write for magazines.)


So I'm taking Swedish classes at the American Swedish Institute and having a blast. Sadly, the class meets only once per week for 90 minutes a session, and I'll have to miss a session next week while working in Florida; but even these short sessions, however few, are a far more affordable avenue than seeking a spot in a university class and occupy a considerably smaller portion of my already-busy week.

We're covering a great deal, our little class of ten plus the instructor. Each meeting is a funny mix of rote recitation, practicing sentences covered in previous weeks, grammar rules, and passage translation.

We use a Swedish language book that does not include a lick of English. It's a curious book from Sweden used there to teach immigrants, so in portions that ask you to translate, it requests you do so in your own language.

Some of the exercises I've pursued this way by translating into German; and I'm finding I recall much more German than I expected too, but it does threaten to confuse the languages so maybe I'll stick to English only until I'm far enough along.

One more note about the book. It allows us one of my favorite language study moments: following the fictional family. We follow the Åberg (pronounced like "O-berry") family--Jonas, Ellen, Emil and Klara--as they drink coffee and beer, drive cars, laugh, play guitar, etc.

Hey: I like the continuing education gig. I especially like it now that I'm taking a class that isn't for my professional well-being but simply for my own knowledge and enjoyment. Who knows? Maybe now that the Muse has me doing yoga, perhaps I'll take a yoga a year or two. For now it's Swedish, and I dig it.

Advice for those taking a less-formal language course (and languages are something we should study more in the US--we'd understand English better if we did):

  • While the peculiarities of a language new to you are worth thinking and talking about, it is best not to use class time to question why particular pronunciations are the way they are.
  • The same applies for the sharing of personal experiences. Genealogical and travel notes may be very relevant to your interest in the class, but they should not occupy the class time. We have only these 90 minutes, friends; and only 9 sessions. To lose 15 minutes to personal stories that don't add to the learning (or enjoyment) of a class is agonizing.

* Night Editor's story of coxswain leadership, falling ice and championship rowing squads

* The Birdchick is feeding bees and digiscoping

* And Al Gore is a co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Congrats, dude!


Blogger Night Editor said...

That's a wish on my list: to learn a second language. I want to learn Spanish and your story motivates me. I like your advice. Can I start with language tapes or no? My daughter is learning the Hmong language and also gets the benefit of hearing that language in action all over St. Paul.

6:55 fm  
Blogger ECS said...

didn't know you are also a former rower! It's one of the things I miss a lot about being up here- the only rowing available is for sjómannadagur and it's not a very serious activity.

7:21 fm  
Blogger cK said...

Night Editor: Si! Pick up Spanish tapes. Start at your own comfort level. And if you decide to hit a class, hey: that's one of the languages for which there are many formal and informal courses at colleges, community centers, book stores, and so forth.

ECS: I loved rowing on the lake when I was growing up; but I never rowed competitively. (We didn't have that where I lived.) I would very much like a skull. Badly. Maybe I'll make that a goal next summer...though I think I'll first budget my next trip to Sweden!


7:58 fm  
Anonymous Sara said...

When you go live in Sweden Jei and I *WILL* come and visit and you simply must show us around while insulting us in Swedish the entire time.

Because that would be fun.

12:01 fm  
Anonymous joy said...

It sounds like you have some zanudas in your Swedish class. Zanuda is this great Russian word that means a bore, someone who doesn't know when to be quiet, someone who tells stories without gauging their effect on the listener, all those things plus more, rolled into one word that even sounds a bit pejorative. Well, pejorative or like a dodgy sausage roll that's the national dish of a small country. Zanuda.

Anyway, hurrah for language study! Please share the odd and interesting new Swedish words you learn.

Funny you should mention the fictional family. I can't remember my Russian fictional characters, but David y Graciela from high school Spanish will be with me forever, going to the movies or declining the invitation because they have too much homework, and never quite clarifying their ambiguous relationship.

2:42 em  
Blogger cK said...

Sara: Yes! This gives me extra incentive to move to Stockholm. I've guests coming! Cool.

Joy: You are a peach. I'm going to use the word zanuda someday soon. And I'm going to hope my family doesn't read this else they'll use it on me!! Or maybe I'll write a character into some fiction. And his last name will be Zanuda.

7:25 fm  

Skicka en kommentar

<< Home