Friday, February 12, 2010

Memory Full

I don't know how many times my cell phone has told me that it's memory is full. My voicemail's memory is full. My email box's memory is full. My memory is full and it's time to delete something before I can cram more in. Thank goodness Rosetta gives me recall exercises when I log in, so the Spanish doesn't leak out accidentally.

At the moment, I am reading Julia Child's My Life in France, a delightful true account of the years she and her husband Paul spent in Europe; he working for the Foreign Service as a consul, she working on the famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She off-handedly recounts having to learn French, German and Norwegian in order to function in these foreign lands. Remarkable. This woman was in her 40's, and thought no more of picking up another language than she thought of picking up her fork. Why do most of us freeze at the thought of speaking anything other than our mother tongue? I'll tell you why ~ we don't have a reason. Joke: What do you call someone who can speak three languages? Tri-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bi-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.

I am amazed at her level of energy, to spend weeks on perfecting a recipe with various ingredients and techniques. My family gets one shot at my cooking, "Eat it or make something yourself, " is my version of bon appétit! Perhaps her tireless energy stems from the fact that she lived in beautiful France with beautiful shops full of the freshest of fish, fruit and cheeses (subsidised complements of the French government), and the fact she had no outside employment or children. Sure, she and her two "cookery-bookery" friends ran a cooking class called Les Trois Gourmandes, but other than that her time was her own to cook and write. Contrast that with your typical American woman who is juggling a job, a home (no servants), the kids and all their activities. I don't care who you are, if you have kids, your life is no longer your own. Cooking is a treat to be wedged in when possible, often augmented by Pizza Hut and McDonald's on the run.

Getting back to my recall activities, I revisited the Spanish Gringo, my old VCR tape. I picked up a few more gems from the crazy guy. There was a scene where he went around identifying his body parts. Tóquese la cabesa (touch the head), las piernas (legs), los brazos (arms), el codo (elbow). He also explained the most obvious thing I should have realized months ago. When your noun ends in an "o," it's a masculine word preceded by el; ending in an "a," means it's a feminine noun preceded by la. Also él with an accent mark means "he", and el without an accent mark means "the". People don't call me Captain Obvious for nothing!

Also very important for travellers - directions! It's one thing to say, "¿Dónde está el baño?", and entirely another to grasp their answer! For the directionally challenged, here goes: a la derecha (to the right), a la izquierda (to the left), arriba (up), adelante (straight ahead), abajo (down), enfrente (in front of), detrás (behind). And if you can't decipher their quick responses, just say, "Mas despacio por favor." (speak slower please).

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