Monday, October 22, 2012

A stranger in my own language...

 Language is a wonderful thing and talking with children can be so enlightening. They have no problem adapting to a different language, taking on a new challenge, its what they do every moment of every day.
As Federico Fellini said, 'A different language is a different vision of life' and the children I've met, in both France & the UK, really understand this. They realise that language changes things, challenges things, its exciting.

Back in England I find myself viewing a lack of motivation or interest in's just there.People use their own tongue sloppily, randomly, almost without thought and the concept of experiencing another language is not considered. When does a challenge become a problem? Answer when you let it...when it grows out of proportion. Its as though the long wet English summer of 2012 has seeped into their very being. The populous looks grey with the lack of sun, and beaten down by economic times.

If,'Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow', Oliver Wendell Holme, then  it appears we lack that child like desire to grow. When our shoe size & height falter & stop, sometimes our minds stop growing also.

In England I suppose we still have humour, games with words & concepts, painting abstract  pictures with ordinary words. Recently my predictive text amusingly listed the names of two villages (in France & England)  as ' Careless Pistons' and my French closing phrase,'Amicalement' ,(in a friendly way) as 'Impalement'. Now that's a different mental picture than what I started with.

 William James once said,'Language is the most imperfect and expensive means yet discovered for communicating thought', and yesterday I understood just how imperfect that communication can be. The headlines in one of the UK Nationals read,'French invade British Waters' ; what  invasion think I? Property in both countries, love for both thoughts. What tragedy could have occurred,what international incident had transpired. Well it seems that French fishermen have strayed into British scallop fishing grounds.
File:Carlo Crivelli 064.jpgNow I know scallops are a prized delicacy and definitely this issue affects people's livelihood, but 'Invasion', now that's an emotive word. I wondered how many of my fellow Brits, on that supermarket car park,had either eaten these mollusc's or knew that Scallops and St Jacques are one and the same thing.

Now there is another irony, it was not St Jacques, but St James, who was accredited with links to the scallop trade.
The classic scallop shell emblem has gone through many incarnations and at great personal, philosophical & business expense; from the pagan fertility symbol, to the emblem emblazoned on pilgrims cloaks and finally to oil & petroleum imperfect and so expensive!

And the final irony, when we consider language, the reason we Brits call these 'invading' sea creatures, 'scallops'....its from the old French word escalope, meaning 'a shell' or more latterly, 'a thin slice'.

 Now that is an invasion of language.