As promised in Scriptorium Mythica, I’m resuming blogging about language and chess. I do have offline logs at least for Latin, which is the language I am learning the most seriously at this point, but it’s nice to have this be a part of this particular blog. Monthly!
- Latin: I had about five classes. They were good classes but right about the last class my entire schedule imploded. Reading multiple PhD proposals as examiner, doing back to back supervision which also required me brushing up on my memory and trauma studies knowledge (that is my theoretical baseline as far as my PhD studies and a couple of articles go) took a lot of brain energy, not to mention the climate change/Anthropocene research I’m doing at the same time. So, I had a wee bit of a meltdown that week and quit classes. Naturally, I immediately afterwards regretted it. But I was too busy to do anything about it. I’m hardly less busy now, I have a research grant proposal due on Monday (and will be working through the weekend), a PhD dissertation to read (and another one to examine as an internal examiner), paperwork to do for a new research assistant, more paperwork for a webinar I’m organising and…that’s not the point of this blog, is it? Suffice it to say, I started thinking about Latin and how quitting Latin class feels like quitting music class. So that’s that then. Apparently learning Latin has become as much a part of my life as is learning classical guitar, piano, and music theory. This is my new reality. And one that — because that’s just who I am as a person — involves my actually wanting to take Latin exams at the very least two years from now. I’ve made a list of textbooks and exam preparatory books I should get once I reach the intermediate stage (and once my finances are less hamstrung by lots of commitments). So, I **am** deciding to read at least a chapter a week, or every fortnight, given every chapter of the Latin book I’ve been working on for months now has multiple drills. Lack of teacher makes it a bit more challenging but I found plenty of online places with answer keys, and there’s always Latin Discord, where I’ve started lurking. Maybe I can resume Latin lessons next year with another teacher.
- French — to be honest, after over two years of daily french on Duolingo, I’m starting to feel a bit fatigued and frustrated at how slow I’m going, but I think I’m definitely into the intermediate stage. Before this whole pandemic started my plan was to bridge over to Alliance Francaise for in-person classes but I don’t think that’ll happen now because I’m committed to Latin (plus pandemic/stranger danger). Still, it’s really really nice to have gained more proficiency in French, despite actually being able to speak/read very very basic French since my teens thanks to a stack of French textbooks loaned to me by a couple of maiden aunts. I look forward to the day when I can watch depressing arthouse French movies without subtitles.
- Portuguese — I HAVE to express how wonderful it is that after eight months of Portuguese I can recognise a decent fistful of words and sentiments when I listen to Brazilian music now. Which is great because I plan to play a whole lot of Pernambuco even if I’m not going to be presenting Pernambuco for my Grade 7 exams (Bach, Scarlatti and probably Walton).
- Greek — am quite comfortable with the Greek alphabet now. Enough that I’ve been cheekily testing my Greek on my Piano teacher (who is obvs, Greek).
- Scottish –I don’t dare chirp “tapadh leibh a thidseir” (Scottish) at my CG teacher though, ha ha. Gaelic is a delight to return to — I did get my start learning it in primary school in Edinburgh, after all. In the `80s. Dearie me.
- Cymraeg — I’m doing a unit of Welsh that’s all about numbers, teaching you how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. So. Two of my fetishes in one fell swoop. Say no more, Duolingo. Say no more.
- Other languages: The past few weeks of being intensely academic while also being intensely musical and writing a novel, I’ve actually not been sticking to my weekly schedule as rigidly. Language lessons tend to happen before sleep, in bed, while candles are lit and classical music is playing. But I also find they calm me down. I am gaining some sense of language flexibility, am absorbing words and sentence patterns easier and I think it maps across to my music learning or is it that my increased ability to memorise thanks to music learning has made language learning easier? Hard to tell.
- Some backstory: I actually got on this language-learning adventure in November 2019 when I decided I would pick up French again. So I did. Then I picked up Latin in December when I remembered how badly I wanted to learn Latin as a kid, how I devoured every sentence I could find, and had a notebook dedicated to Latin phrases. How, my pathway in philosophy started from the classics in my youth, to Derrida as a scholar. So, that was the start. Then towards January 2020, I went “Hey, maybe I can use this to return to learning music” (online, gamefied learning — I downloaded an app for piano, which worked for a few months before I decided I needed a teacher).
- So here we are. I can’t imagine a life now without language learning, or music. It’s saved me this whole pandemic, but it’s also something I’ve put on hold my entire life. There will be weeks like these when things slow down — today for instance, I just sleepily did a German lesson after I had a shower and blow-dried my hair. Soon, I’m going to do a couple of rounds of Portuguese plus return to French (I’ve skipped French lessons all week), before I pass out. Language lessons help me sleep better 🙂
I don’t think people should begrudge me my language lessons, they’ve kept me emotionally okay during this long, horrific pandemic period of extreme isolation and multiple stresses/traumas. And there are far worst coping mechanisms out there. In a sense that is why I question my decision of wanting to sit for Latin exams because, language learning has been without that external pressure I place on my music learning. But I also don’t want to be just a dabbler. At the very least, I think I should have exams first for Latin, and maybe later for French. I know myself, it’s the best way to have me push my limits. The funny thing is that as a teen and as an undergrad I was a pretty shite exam-taker. But now, I’m all eager beaver about exams. And the Latin will really help w/ the philosophy work. But really it’s just that of all the languages I’ve been learning, Latin is the one that delivers the most visceral (and intellectual) pleasure. Like a dopamine hit. Like catnip thrown at a cat. Maybe it’s because it feels both so familiar and strange at the same time. Maybe it’s because of that eight year old who kept whispering Latin phrases to herself with secret delight. sic itur ad astra, I would whisper to myself as I stared at the stars. Vade mecum, I would proclaim with sombre glee as I clutched the dictionary to me (I was called the walking dictionary both in primary school, and then in high school. This was reported to fellow undergrads in law school by an ex-classmate who wound up in the same cohort. At which point, a bro said, “Nah, she’s a walking encyclopedia”. So there’s that. Nerd4Lyfe). And later, much later, when things got really bad, I would say to myself,
Odi profanum vulgus et arceo
Favete linguis carmina non prius
Audita Musarum sacerdos
Virginibus puerisque canto.
And I would nod my head, and giggle a bit. And everything would be okay. Because if you’re me, you recite Horace to yourself, and then you giggle. So yeah. Latin and me, we’ve definitely been in a lifelong relationship.
Which reminds me, I’ve actually been neglecting philosophy since the pandemic started. Well, apart from that one article utilising Derridean hauntology that got published in 2020. I haven’t done my yearly reread of Witt’s Tractatus, Leibniz’s Of Monadology, my bro Derrida’s Aporias et al, in two years. Maybe it’s hard to read Aporias when…well, literally everything is going that way, isn’t it. I have been reading a lot of Burke and Kristeva, primarily because of the Gothic course I teach every other semester, and a terrifying amount of literary theory/critical theory etc — but that’s not enough. I bring up philosophy because I always wanted to “go back to school and get a second PhD at some point” and that was going to be in philosophy (or, at one point I had dreams of theoretical physics). But now that I am embroiled in music and language learning, I’m not so sure this will happen?! And I’m already publishing articles with at the very least some philosophical basis. One must be content with that. I only have one life and finite time. I’ll always choose music…and literature first. Besides, those pipe-dreams were in the years when I’d given up on advancing on my music and writing. Given up on the idea that I could ever be an actual legit composer. Well. So much has changed since then.
φιλοσοφία wafflings will likely be another blog series (I really need to install a Greek keyboard on my macbook at some point so I can be all pretentious and type φιλοσοφία out rather than have to copy and paste it).