Skip to main content

backing talkwards

so, it appears that i've finally met my linguistic match: i cannot figure out a way to learn hebrew or arabic. yes, these languages are known for being difficult for english speakers to acquire; their alphabets, vocabulary and grammar are completely alien to begin with, and on top of that, they're written backwards. ok, not backwards. the languages are written from right to left, the opposite of how english is written. [no, i take that back. far more languages are written from left to right, and in every human society, norms are designated by the majority. your languages have every right to exist, but they are fucking backwards.]

although they can be daunting at first, i'm no longer frightened of different scripts. in my limited experience, i've found that russian is easier for me to master than polish. i was lucky enough to be selected to alpha test the forthcoming japanese course from duolingo and, while i can't quite get the hang of the kanji yet, hiragana [which isn't even a goddamned alphabet, but a syllabary] is something i'm getting through cautious progress.

the stumbling block is partly based on the backwards construction, but it's weirder than that.

i know that i need to move my eyes from right to left, and that everything moves as if i'm looking in a mirror. [don't think it hasn't occurred to me to use a mirror in order to ease the learning curve.] it's an act of will, particularly if i have to focus on listening to words and reading them at the same time. but the truly odd part is that i realised earlier this week that i'm trying to read the characters upside down.

for whatever reason, and i truly can't figure out what that is, my brain has chosen to interpret the right to left order as meaning that these scripts are inverted in every conceivable way. i'd noticed that, whenever i worked on hebrew lessons, my neck seemed to hurt a little. i never connected these two things [i often practice a couple of languages in a single "session" anyway] until this week, when i looked at one letter and perceived what i was doing wrong.

like a bolt from the blue

that is the letter lamed, which is pronounced as the english "l". i originally trained myself to remember it by thinking "it looks like a bolt of lightning; lightning starts with "l'". however, when i was practicing this week, i realised that i was thinking "the letter that looks like 'l'". lamed doesn't look like the letter "l", unless you're looking at it upside down. from there, i realised that my interpretations were based on scanning all the letters not just from right to left, but from bottom to top. the reason that my neck was hurting [aside from the fact that i have arthritis in three of my cervical vertebrae] was because i had been unconsciously tilting my head so that i could "get a better look".

i've no idea why this happened, but the programming is proving fiendishly difficult to reverse. i have to focus so intently on the letters that i don't even hear what they're supposed to sound like. i tested my reading of arabic, to see if it was something that it was limited to hebrew only, and i found that, without the reassurance of hebrew's blocky letters, i fared even worse. in arabic, i couldn't tell what was making what sound, and became so frustrated within minutes that i couldn't bear to continue.

for the moment, i'm placing semitic languages to the side, because neither my brain nor my neck can handle the stress. but i am interested in finding out why my brain might be making my effort to learn something new even more difficult than it would otherwise be. more to come, assuming that i can find some sort of theory. 

Comments

as long as you're here, why not read more?

white trash

yes, my lovelies, i have returned from the dead, at least for the time it takes me to write this post. this is not just another piece of observational drivel about how i haven't been taking care of the blog lately, although i clearly haven't. on that front, though, the principal cause of my absence has actually been due to me trying to get another, somewhat related project, off the ground. unfortunately, that project has met with some frustrating delays which means that anyone who follows this blog [perhaps there are still a few of you who haven't entirely given up] would understandably be left with the impression that i'd simply forsaken more like space to marvel at the complexity of my own belly button lint. [it's possible you had that impression even before i disappeared.]

ok, enough with that. i have a subject i wanted to discuss with you, in the sense that i will want and encourage you to respond with questions, concerns and criticism in the comments or by em…

i'm definitely someone altogether different

about a hundred years ago, i remember having a partner who told me that, rather than writing the sort of ambiance-oriented crap [he didn't say crap, i'm saying it] that i was naturally driven to write, i should just compose something like the harry potter books. this wasn't out of any sense of challenging me to do new things but because of the desperate hope that my love of writing could be parlayed into something profitable.

my reaction at the time was "i just can't". and that was honestly how i felt because i didn't believe that that kind of story was in me. for the record, i still don't think that anything like the potter-hogwarts universe is in me. i'm not a fan of fantasy literature generally speaking and i feel like there's a richer experience to be examined in looking at our experience as regular humans being part of the rational, limited, everyday world and at the same time being able to feel connected to something that, for lack of a…

presidenting is hard :: nato

oh donald, i've been slacking on my promise to help you out with your duties as president. [yes, you may take a moment to giggle at the word "duties". but make it quick.]

it's not because i think you don't need the support; you are every bit as ignorant and inept as i'd feared/ expected and the erstwhile presence of "adults in the room" hasn't made you any better. it's just as well that you've dispatched of them. you weren't listening to what they said 95% of the time and on those few occasions when you did try to listen, you didn't understand what they were saying. increasingly, we're getting to see you for the complete intellectual non-entity you are and to see how someone who knows nothing about history, geography, culture or military tactics addresses the challenges of foreign policy.

the latest development on that front is that i've heard that you're planning on leaving nato. we all know that you've never be…