A skein of geese

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.

interesting name, pretty good meal

Sadly, funny translations are no longer part of my everyday life. Here are two from last week in Cluj

inappropriate correction


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