Sunday, July 09, 2006

Accents from the East, and Last Names from Polska

The tongue and the ears, two of the vitals of the human body, two of the five sense organs, have proved an unfaithful couple, creating together a source of embarrassment for me over the last few years. However, while it has been the incapability of these pieces to behave as one (read I) would have liked them to on certain occasions, sometimes I wonder if it should rather be the manager, namely the gray chunk that is responsible for coordination that should be blamed for its inability to bring those organs under its command.

The ears, albeit being subjected to cleaning on regular intervals, had failed – time and again – to respond to real-time requirements, and hence the lower jaw had dropped down, the eyes constricted and the brows bent to assume a wavy pattern on several occasions. These, combined with a sense of incompetence, had led to slight and temporary discomforts, which in turn had at one point piled up to a worrisome degree.

It is my inability to decipher the oriental accents – a trait, if you will, that I had to live with for a small period of time – that I am referring to. There have been too many occasions where I had stumped myself while in conversation with members of this Great race. It bothered me, and I would kick myself when alone. I would think of it as a disability, and would be chagrined for having to deal with it.

A familiar Dutchman had recently made an observation (something that had never occurred to me before) that countries that watch English TV produce accent free speakers. As an example, he pointed out to me the difference between the Dutch and the Spanish, and I chipped in with my encounter with two Spaniards on the subway and my knowledge of the contrasting Scandinavians. After adding all that up, he seemed to be right.

I love Asians. They have always been good to me. They are great people. And their women are simply awesome – by far the most beautiful of all races that have breathed the Earth’s pollution. Besides, if I am really going to spend a year in Shanghai and another in Tokyo one day, I said to myself, I’d really have to do better.

And I did. I became more intent, more analytical and more willing in my approach, until I overcame my disability one day. I woke up in the morning and a certain Chen sounded like he was speaking a language that I had heard all my life. This meant that neither Shanghai nor Tokyo would be much of a head-ache, except of course for the $85 water-melons that they sell in the latter, my sole reason for not having flown off to the vicinities of Fujiyama with a small budget and a signed letter of acceptance from one of the local universities.

So there goes the story of my lobes and their drums. Now we come to the home of the taste buds which has been a cause of concern for the second most popular common noun that is usually associated with it: pronunciation. My well-tanned face radiating a slightly reddish shade of embarrassment distinguishable even in a dimly lit room last night as I struggled to pronounce the last name of the Polish girl that I met at the pub was not a first. The fact that she herself was recovering from the embarrassment of having called me “Acid” (the music was too loud, so I don’t blame her; besides, I consider myself lucky if my name gets pronounced properly around here anyways) doesn’t serve as a comfort or an excuse either. I have had too many problems pronouncing Polish last names in the past; and they have almost ALWAYS been Polish. While I take great interest in the nation and her kids, this shortcoming bothers me quite a deal.

My affair with Polish lasts began almost a year ago, when I let one sail way over the cross bar in an attempt to call a friend by his last name; and just like one starts to want and cherish something that he/she can’t get, my inability to play my tongue along the walls of my mouth to the proper Polska tune led to a grown interest in and love for Poland, her people and their names.

Partly as a remedy to such disabilities, and partly due to my own interest, I have decided to go multilingual. The goal is to master at least three different European languages and two Asian ones by 2010. If I’m lucky enough, maybe I’ll pick up either Cantonese or Mandarin and a Japanese language before my voyage to the east. Since Europe isn’t on my list as of yet (but it very well could be in a few years), the likes of French, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch can wait, although living in a country as diverse as the ugly twin of the United States does make the entire process of learning a whole new language a piece of cake.


At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what kind of nonsense u write.

At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Raqib said...

had a headache going through it.I would say it is RUBBISH.

At 7:37 PM, Blogger NAB said...

amazingly well-written! disregard the two above. =)


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