Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hugh Lunn, 1989, Over the top with Jim, Latin class

Hugh Lunn, 1989, Over the top with Jim, University of Queensland Press.

Latin was a subject I just could not do, no matter how many times I got the cuts for not knowing my vocab, or no matter how many declensions I learned by heart, like "amo, amas, amat,amamus, amatus, amant". We used to say in the C class: "Latin is a dead language, dead as dead can be, it killed off all the Romans, and now it's killing me." We sang hymns in Latin, like Tantum Ergo; we said Mass in Latin; and we even said whole prayers in Latin - but still I knew nothing about the language. I just memorised sentences, like when I first learned to read at the convent. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa I knew was "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault" - only because both Latin and English versions were said when beating your chest with your right fist.

The good boys from the A class used Latin whenever possible, to show how superior they were. Even school reports on football matches contained Latin phrases. When our first 15 disastrously lost a rugby union match to Brisbane Grammar in my junior year, the school magazine said: "Fluctuat, nec mergitur", whatever that meant.

(Page 191)

Phil: I love Hugh Lunn's book of 1950s and 1960s reminiscence and biography. So much I can relate to as a fellow inmate of the Catholic schools and education system of those days. Ah, the good old days when language learning really meant something (different?) Perhaps that Catholic beating the chest with your right fist and chanting mea culpa can be viewed as an early form of Total Physical Response. Unlike Hugh, I loved Latin and French and still can spend hours looking up origins of words in my OED. My daughter says I am just like the Dad Gus in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Now, gimme a word, any word, and I'll show you how the root of that word is Greek. See Hugh Lunn's website - an Australian journalist and author of great humour and down-to-earth insight into human reality.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Learning languages 'boosts brain'

Learning a second language "boosts" brain-power, scientists believe.
Researchers from University College London studied the brains of 105 people - 80 of whom were bilingual.

They found learning other languages altered grey matter - the area of the brain which processes information - in the same way exercise builds muscles.

A BBC story from 2004 but still useful to convince the doubters.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

World in Words - Podcasts

The World in Words focuses on language. We cover everything from bilingual education to the globalization of English to untranslatable foreign phrases. You’ll learn how to insult someone in Icelandic, among other things. Hosted by The World’s Patrick Cox.
Listen, for example, to "Bilingual tots and the language of smell" by Patrick Cox June 1, 2010. "We hear from a Jerusalem-based journalist who is sending his kid to Arabic/Hebrew bilingual preschool. Also, a Seattle rabbi visits the Cairo Genizah, and explains why so many sacred Jewish texts were written in Arabic. And we hear from experts at the New York Public Library on the secrets that a book’s smell will reveal to an educated nose." Hear Audio on the webpage or download mp3