Archive for the 'Literature' Category

What Do You Do When You Don’t Have Time?

I mentioned awhile back that I would have to put my practice of the Polish language down for awhile, since I’d be so short on time. I seem to have taken that idea one step further and pretty much stopped studying all my languages (which is pretty bad since I’m actually taking a Spanish class at school -my “Spanish class” is a subject I will take on in a later post). The class, being a complete beginner’s class, unfortunately cannot stay very interesting, it also only meets one day a week. The wonderful world of life may have kept me from doing any comprehensive work on the various languages I’m trying to make stronger, but that can’t really stop me right?

Polish is the most difficult to keep up and advance. I’ve talked before about getting my wife to speak more to me in Polish, but Stu Jay’s post rings true here. It’s not that she gets angry; it’s that it just doesn’t work. We speak to each other in English and it’s strange for our relationship to speak anything else, even if I can get by with some smaller stuff. It makes me want to kick myself when I think how much I avoided just speaking some Polish when I lived there , after I’d accumulated a decent enough vocabulary.

My Spanish has always been good enough to “get by”, but never good enough to sound smart in. With Spanish I have the opposite problem, I need some hot beef vocabulary injections, there’s nothing wrong with my flow in Spanish, it’s all in the fact that sometimes I just don’t have the words. This is what happens when the only Spanish you speak growing up is with your grandmother and it always involves asking for food. If there is a problem with Spanish, it’s more of an excuse, since I’ve grown up around it in my family, and since I’ve grown up around it because I live in the Southwestern quarter of the United States-it just seems so much less exotic.

It is an excuse since the style of literature I most lean towards is the dreaminess and the light existentialism of Latin literature. I hold myself back from reading a lot of Marquez and Borges, because I want to read them in Spanish. Bolano excites me, and I’ve never even read a page. I absolutely loved Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind , but am sad because I read the English version. So my excuse of Spanish not being exotic enough does not hold weight. In Las Vegas I’m also in a better position to have those engaging conversations, naturally there are far more Spanish speakers in Nevada and California than Polish speakers.

So I fall back into the internet polyglot mantra: Enjoy yourself with the language. I may not have time to study vocabulary and may not be in a position to speak as much Polish as I would like to, but I can still listen and read the news in these languages, I can still read lower level books in Spanish and Polish that I enjoy (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe seems to be a common first foreign language book choice of mine). Though I’m busy with everything, it doesn’t mean I can’t try to use these languages during other parts of the day, and if you have the same problem, it doesn’t mean you can’t try to use your target languages during the day either.

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The Way to do Shakespeare

Shakespeare is hard. Kids don’t understand him. Adults don’t understand him. For a guy credited with being the father of modern English, the reason he is disliked is rather ironic: “I can’t understand Macbeth”.

Shakespeare is old, and if someone wanted to argue that he’s the grandfather of the English we speak now, not the father, the argument would be sound. It does not make Shakespeare any less great. It does not mean that he loses his place as one of the greatest writers or artists ever produced by humanity.

Shakespeare is at the least among the best (at the very very least). That alone means the more intellectually inclined should have some interest. The problem is in how people think they should read Shakespeare. In my view Shakespeare should be read in a completely different fashion than most other fiction is read today. For one, it’s a play, so it’s meant to be performed. Read as literature, more important are the monologues and dialogues individually, and the words Shakespeare chooses.

In all truth Shakespeare, as far as plot goes, isn’t anything special. He basically stole every general idea, much like Disney just rewrites old fairy tales with singing lobsters, instead of that, he just rewrites old literature with a vivid ‘poetic prose’. It’s star crossed lovers and murderers falling deeper and deeper into darkness. What makes his work a thing of beauty is how his characters get to be star crossed and dark.

This is why it’s better to be either told the gist of the story before hand or to watch some kind of film rendition of the play in question, of which there are no shortage, get an understanding of what is happening in the general plot out of the way, so we can get right to what makes Shakespeare so great and so beautiful.

The way he writes those words! If only we all spoke in such poetry…


It should be noted that these are Polish words known.

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