Humans are built for language. We learn it naturally when exposed as infants and toddlers. After childhood, however, learning a foreign language is much harder for most of us. It takes quite a bit of vocabulary to get the gist of a conversation, dedicated study to be conversant, and years of work to be fluent. In Romanian, sadly, I never really got past the ‘gist’ stage.
Even with fluency some subtleties may remain elusive. I once spent 20 minutes explaining the difference between twirling and whirling. When asked about a phrase I uttered I realized I use: “We’ll see how it all shakes out” at different times than the phrase: “We’ll see how it all turns out.”
Even in one’s native language there are more words available than one might know. One of my favorite English language vocabulary facts: the word for a group of geese is gaggle when they are on the ground. When the group takes flight it’s a skein. Groups of animals do, in general, have fabulous names. Take a look at the names for of a group of ferrets, porcupines, owls, or jellyfish if you need a good chuckle.
Back in the U.S. nothing has struck me more than language. I became used to being in my own language bubble, not being able to order anything but the standard item on a restaurant menu and not understanding the conversations going on around me on the bus. It’s a delight now to be able to ask for extra ketchup though I do find myself almost continually startled in public places when I hear others talking and actually understand what they are saying.Sadly, funny translations are no longer part of my everyday life. Here are two from last week in Cluj