Thursday, March 11, 2004

Sometimes, I wish I was Greek. Or Italian. Spanish would be nice. French maybe, Dutch is a possibility, or Japanese would be fun. Really, what I wish that I had some sort of heritage that meant I could speak more than one language.

This is a problem with growing up in Australia, unless you have parents from a background where they speak another language, it is very hard to pick one up, particularly due to our geographical isolation. I mean, I have tried to learn other languages. At primary school I did Italian. At secondary school, German and French. Which is handy only if people ask me very specific questions like “Please count to ten” or “That is a very nice red jumper you are wearing, where did you buy it?” You can imagine how often that phrase came up when I travelled in France and Germany, given that I didn’t even take a red jumper in my backpack.

Europeans are generally fantastic at speaking at least two languages, and quite often more. During our Europe travels we met some girls from Holland. They spoke perfect English, Dutch of course, Italian, French and German. And they were studying in the Czech Republic. My point is that when you can jump on a train and a couple of hours later be in a different country with a completely different culture and language, then this is a big help in your learning. North Americans have their proximity to South America for Spanish and Portuguese. Canadians have the wonderful French provinces to help them along.

And in Australia we have New Zealand. No offence to New Zealanders, I’m sure they feel the same way about Australia. Actually when we went to New Zealand to visit my little sis who is living over there, I was surprised at how many words they used, and food they ate, that I had never heard before. For example, judder bar. U-burger. Chilly bin. Kumara. Feijoas. I spent my whole time in New Zealand feeling like I was in the twilight zone, everything was familiar and similar to Australia, and yet there were just the occasional differences that completely threw me.

So I guess that trip helped me learn to speak New Zealand, heh. But it hasn’t helped me in any other language. All this brings me to the point of this, which is that in an effort to improve the chances of being understood whilst travelling in South America, we are doing a Spanish language course. This time I can’t use the excuse of not practicing the language, as the six week course ends two days before we leave. I figure that if I can say enough to order two beers (actually I already have that down pat, that’s all I could say when we went to Spain) and find somewhere to sleep then I’ll be alright. But gee it would be nice to know more.


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