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!!

Valentine's in New Orleans

Valentine’s Day
I’ll Get You For This!
Okay, I’m channeling Carrie Bradshaw here; but, is it not true that when you tell someone that big old “L” word that, in essence, you are committing to a technicolor, gossamer lined, cotton candy, hold ’em close and never let them go, love you to death debt of honor; and, at the same time subjecting yourself to a like indenture? In other words, when you say I love you…do you really mean “you owe me”? Do I hear the shackling of the handcuffs to the heart?
Now, don’t take this personal; these are just questions, and perhaps a waste of space except that February is ripe for such inquiries, what with Valentine’s and all…plus, there is my never ending tendency to challenge your thought processes.
At this point let me clarify that, yes, I do have a lover in my life and not only does my lover act, show and treat me as if I am worthy of love; my lover tells me that she loves me and I appreciate each and every time that I hear it from her lips. Yet, I remain amazed at the plethora of connotations that are implied with the use of the word ‘love’.
“I love you”. Did your Mama an ‘em lay that one on you (“I love you, Little Booger”) when you were young; and, did you not know that any mischief, mayhem or mis-step that you made would be a breach of faith to that love? That, that love, that was given so freely and then held over your head like a fragile bird (that you could destroy with a slip in your behavior), was cemented with those words? What do we actually mean by those three little words? AND, do we accept or place burdens on ourselves and others, perhaps naively, by their use? Is it as well an award and a reward? Is the word ‘love’ slung around like a garnish of whipped cream? Does it curdle with misuse or neglect; and, (like whipped cream) does it’s use in sex seem a little weird sometimes? A re-enforcement, a goose bumpy, puppy face-licking phrase of sub-serviance?
First though: Asking about what we mean by love itself can fill this newspaper and plenty of others and so, we’re not going to get into all that here. Better to save that discussion (what is love?) for a dark and stormy night, by a warm fire with a couple of brandies under our belts. I’m wondering about the many ways that we use the word. Disparities abound in a myriad of circumstances with the uses, the oft overlooked conundrum: what do we really mean when we say “I love you”? Can it possibly be as simple as that; the epitome of human felling can be condensed into three words? Let’s see.
Now, sometimes the ‘L’ word is used as a benediction as in when you’re leaving someone in a hospital bed, kissing a child good night or ringing off on a phone conversation. At times, guns drawn and ready to break down the perp’s door and my partner and I take a deep breath and I say “ready?” and she nods assent, I say softly “I love you” and we bust in guns blazing!
Newspaper cartoon of a girl child waking up her father and he says: “huh, wha?” and she says “Dad, I just wanted to tell you what a wonderful father you are and that I love you”. The dad smiles and the child adds “and I just spilled a gallon of fruit punch in the refrigerator”.
But wait! There’s more: Is it a natural or conditioned response that when someone says ‘I love you” to say “I love you, too”? Try responding: “Why, what did you do?” or “Yes but, I love you more” or (here’s the best one) “Okay. Grab me a beer, will ya?”
Okay, show of hands… how many of us take our critters close and say those words? I do, and I’m not too shy to admit to kissing my cat and nuzzling my dog; or, nuzzling my cat and kissing my dog. Either circumstance has me saying those three little words. Incidentally when a dog licks you is that an ‘I love you’ or a ‘don’t kick me’? Who can swear?
Does Jesus really love me? Did God love me so much that he sent Jesus to save me? I don’t know, I haven’t met either one of them. Which brings up love in religion and the faithful. Is it love or fear? Does Buddha love me? Muhammad? Does eternal love require eternally saying it? What is expected in return? No, you can’t have my beer.
Can you love a government the way that you love someone’s sweater, earrings or lipstick? And don’t tell me that I don’t know the difference between love and lust; although, I have been known to use ‘the word’ interchangeably for both types of attraction.
And I’m here to tell you that I am a great fan of the spoken word, especially when it’s to express love; however, this Valentine’s I’m making a resolution to mix it up: learning to say ‘I love you’ in foreign languages, wagging my tail or purring are also things that I’m up for trying. But also, there are other ways to keep love’s attention: treat, act and show are good places to start for the non-verbal communication of our feelings.
Face it, we show our loved ones that we love them by our actions and how we treat them; ‘the do’s: politeness, respect, space considerations and compliments as well as understanding, patience, forgiveness that go with the practicing of the Golden Rule. Add to that the ‘nots’: not being a pain in the ass to be around, not acting the fool, not overstressing your opinions and not knowing when to shut the fuck up.
Another thing that you can do is to read this article to your loved one. Just make sure that you stress after the reading that; “Honey, I’m sure that he’s not talking about us!”. Happy V.D. (Valentine’s Day) P.S. I love you.