Saturday, November 29, 2008

Learning languages in New Orleans

Parlo qui
I’m talkin’ here
As you may note by our title ^, I’m now getting into ‘lingualing’… a term that I made up myself. You could say that I’m bi-lingualing… but I’m not. I’d buy if I could. You might say tri-lingualing… but I’m not trying that hard. In point of fact, I’m actually wishing to lingual (wi-lingualing?); but, I just can’t get none of that stuff to stick, languages that is. Oh, I’ve got books on the learning of foreign languages and they are all about languages that should not be foreign to me…. but are. I have friends that speak more than one language, I’ve been to other countries where they talk different; and, I eat and cook in several nationalities; however, in a word: succhio: I suck at learning any more than rudiments. And it’s a shame… because I believe that speaking another language should come as natural as passing gas.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not as dumb as I look and I can get a beer, a bed or a bathroom anywhere that I find myself. I have been to some non-English speaking places like Brooklyn, East Los Angeles and parts of rural Mississippi and gotten along fine. Also, I’ve been known to get about fine in Europe and Central America with relative ease if not aplomb. Furthermore, I plan other trips abroad and I really want to get more out of other cultures than a strange look as I order doorknobs and light bulbs for dinner in a restaurant.
I’ve been surrounded by other languages all of my life and I have assimilated a little and even studied some. I can hail folks from the far East to the near West; but, with a brain the size of a planet you would imagine that I could remember enough French to get some extra butter for my croissant or a refill of coffee.
The bitch of it all is that I do know how to say things like that; however, my brain freezes once I open my mouth and by the time things are sorted out, the damn waiter decides to practice his English on me! I just want to say: “Yo! Je parle ici (hey, I’m talkin’ here!)
I’m going to go to Sicily soon, where I’m sure you know that they talk a dialect of Italian considered strange, even by Italian standards; and, I’m practicing with dried fava beans in my pie hole, standing on my head and wearing a necklace of garlic. Not really, but close. Compared to classic Italian, the Sicilian accent sounds like a marble salesman with a mouth full of samples; so, it’s gonna be some fun for Tio Felipo.
Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, I’m imagining a city where we all speak other languages some day soon. I picture myself walking down the street to coffee listening to the ‘bon jour’, ‘ teckanes’, ‘buenos dias’, ‘ohio geziamus’, ‘buonjourno’, ‘nee hau ma’ and ‘where Y’at’ of my fellow lingua-maniacs all in the throes of making New Orleans a multi-lingual Mecca.
(Aside: to all non-linguists) You had better learn that ‘Buenos Dias’ thing real quick because New Orleans has a Hispanic population that is growing by leaps and bounds; so, now that you can comfortably order cervesas with your chiles rellenos, you can add phrases like “!Veo al lado de su equipo que usted es vaquero” or “I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy!”. You just never know when you might use it.
It’s just too bad that we can’t get an influx of all kinds of folks here; say… how about a slew of Frenchies? Then we could practice saying stuff like “oui, nous faisons cuire avec plus de douze ingredients” (“yes, we do cook with more than twelve ingredients”). Or, “faire des pomme frites sount fourni avec cette boisson glace?” (do fries come with that shake?) Plus, we already have a lot of our streets with French names, even if we don’t pronounce them like a French person would. Furthermore, they use the same alphabet and we could use more real French restaurants. Also, French people really know how to dress, they really do, and in my humble opinion we could use an influx of metro-sexualism in our wardrobes, n’est pas?
Or, how about we get us more Italians, ah yes, Italians. Is there a more lyrical sound than the romantic, tongue rolling, silk textural, sensual, goose bump inspiring sound of the Italian language delivered with love? Or the baseball bat to the kidney, battery acid to the eyes, ball peen hammer to the temporal lobe of the same tongue spoken in anger turned to wrath? No, on both counts. Italian is the language of passion and persuasion. Witness, if you will, the English translation of “Se lei tocca mia molgie… rompero la sua faccia!” (you touch my wife…I break you face!) And, here’s one for you to learn: “Lo scambio Americano della moglie e una cosa del passato” (American wife swapping is a thing of the past), or Cio e una pistola nella sua tasca o la sono appena contento per mi verdere? (Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?) See, there’s something for everyone.
Okay, we’re on a roll here, let’s try this: You and your friend are in a coffee shop and at the next table you think that you hear a some Germans talking. Have your friend say “Ich wette Sie, das ich weib, wo, Sie sie schuhe erhalten haben. (I bet that I can tell you where you got your shoes). Now, if they look at you funny, they might be Dutch and not German. How do you tell? Well, you just lean real close to the biggest one and say “Ik ben niet zeker maar Ik denk dat hij over uw moeder prat” (I’m not sure, but I think he’s talking about your mother) That ought to do it, huh?
Whew! We’re out of space now; but, New Year’s resolution (!!)… expand your linguals!!

No comments: