The third post of the expedition – learning the language, and most definitely not murdering anyone.

So you may or may not recall how at some point my girlfriend read one of these posts and said I should be a journalist. Unfortunately she doesn’t still hold that opinion in its entirety, and now is perplexed as to why I tell the rest of the world what I’m thinking before I tell her. I know very little of the subjects of my posts interest her, especially anything remotely technical or ancestral, as the latter is an interest her mother and I share, so try to avoid boring her further than is absolutely necessary. Now travelling, being within 30 miles of her, and doing pretty much the same exact thing as she spent half of the last 18 months doing has added to this. As much as I’d love to rave as to how adorable my Italian proteges are being (and they are by the way), never mind having been there and having the proverbial t-shirt, she’s got the proverbial branch of Zara with the proverbial points card.

However, this said, her having done pretty much the exact same thing for half of the last year-odd has meant she has learnt a shed load of Italian, which she has tried her best to teach me, and which I’m pleased to say has actually stuck in the main. From this she has concluded that I a) have a very good memory, and b) learn in an “odd” way. Which of course got me thinking, hence this, also completing a nice little ironic loop.

My old boss said I had an odd tendency to stare intently at things, which apparently a sign of a photographic memory. It makes sense, I have the flash-bulb memories of course, surrounding traumatic or shocking events – 9/11, snow days at school and the like – but I also seem to be shit-hot at anything I can remember visually – directions to a place I’ve only been to once before, numerical codes for my old job, where I hid the bodies, odd stuff like that. It probably puts me somewhere on the scale for autism, but I’m cool with that because nothing’s official yet, so for now I’m just awesome.

But then we come to the problem of learning a language, which tends to be written down or spoken. The software my girlfriend used while she was still in England created memorable images to link the English and Italian nouns, for example a knife wrapped in a cold towel to link to ‘coltello’. I listened in on most of this, and picked up odd words here and there, thanks to this system of odd mental images. There is, of course, some part of it that is similar to French (of which I know virtually nothing), English and by virtue of this, German. However there is a lot that is simply learning it, verbs and the suchlike, which may be a slightly more amazing feat of memory.

Now I am here, I find myself learning in a totally different way. I am, three weeks in, yet to take a formal class and have barely glimpsed textbooks I have been lent, however I am still picking up stuff at a very good rate. Instead of having contextually useless vocabulary thrown at me with the promise it will one day be useful (which admittedly it definitely is), the tables have turned and I find myself learning out of necessity. I know just enough to get by. I can’t elaborate or respond very well to the unexpected question, and I have only one phrase for each purpose, and so every couple of days, more or less, I find myself not knowing something that I need. Therefore, every couple of days, an opportunity arises to add to my vocabulary so that next time I need to say ‘I need to leave the body here How many chucks could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?‘ I will be able to. It’s an ever repeating loop, that ultimately spirals out as my vocabulary expands where I need it to, and yet I will still be able to claim plausible deniability by having no idea how to say ‘Can you remove blood stains?’

Jack out.

As a side note: I have no idea what a wood chuck is, but this is an example of an English tongue twister. There are many fun ones out there. If you want to know more, see me after class.


About Jack
A small-time traveller in a big-time world

One Response to The third post of the expedition – learning the language, and most definitely not murdering anyone.

  1. Expat Eye says:

    Cheers for the follow! I’m currently trying to learn Latvian – without formal lessons and mainly from Fox Crime subtitles so if you need to bury a body in Latvia, I’m your woman 😉

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