Three weeks of contemplation about the joys and sorrows of language learning. My first language was two years of Spanish in high school I let it go after that, although only a few years later found me in Southwest Texas with lots of Spanish speakers, but I did not follow up. Over time, however, I caught up, and love Cien Años de Soletud
, among others. Four semesters of German in college led nowhere as well. German did not turn out to be my favorite language, but after four semesters my foundation was solid, and I wish I had kept going. Four semesters of French turned out very well, though I never wandered far from merely reading. The first French novel I read through was La conditon humaine
, which bowled me over (tho I have read it again since, with less enjoyment
) Not knowing French, I never would have discovered Dumas' La marquise de Brinvilliers
, which is unsurpassed in character development and an extraordinary peripateia. Then there is Proust. To read Proust is to get lost in a large forest, but persevering, one catches a glimpse from time to time of daylight and of a familiar path (the image stolen really from Virginia Woolf).
I studied Latin in graduate school, and all in all, regret the time spent then and later. So ironic that I love the sound of Latin above that of any other language, but the literature, mostly but not entirely, leaves me cold. Then there is Ancient Greek, the longest and hardest journey, and, considering the length and difficulty, the most disappointing of languages. I'm left with a fond feeling for the historian Herodotus, some of the poems in the Greek Anthology
, and some of the imagery of Agamemnon
, but as for the rest, even Plato and Thucydides, not really worth the hard work. None of Plato-Socrates's arguments about philosophy seem remotely persuasive. There's Aristotle, whom I have not read, because his work is but the notes of students and so difficult to fathom. Well, anyway, at least now I know.
The only other languages I put some serious time into were Old Norse and Old English. I have yet to read in the original Njalssaga
, the birth place sort of of my user name here, slightly morfed because of Robin Williams.
As for languages, I'm mopping up Ancient Greek by reading a minor dialogue of Plato called Ion
, but only for prepping for a recording of the dialogue narrated in reconstructed Ancient Greek by Johannes Strathakis. Strathakis speaks with a rich, authoritative, natural sounding Greek, which has become in very debased form my "voice" for Ancient Greek. I want to listen to more of his recording to improve somethat my own.
Latin finds me sliding to medieval lyrics, but I've just begun to get back into it. Peter Dronke (mostly in Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love-Lyric
, 2 vols, but touched on a bit in The Medieval Lyric
) is the rare classicist who shows and can articulate his appreciation for the Latin language. Most of the others seem to speak a variation of, "The Aeneid
is great. You should read the Aeneid because it is great." The Consolation of Philosophy
has also not dropped off my reading list, and I may try to give a shot to Seneca's dramas.The Tale of Genji
(in Spanish translation) grows ever more intricate and captivating.
My first time through Montaigne's Essays
in French (translation) reminds me of his sense of humor, his wide-ranging interests and his deep thoughts.
Tu sabes cuando sales pero no sabes cuando regresas.