PLACES (of the earth & mind)

I'm on a bus...

John is a language enthusiast. He is sitting next to me right now on a bus to Vienna diligently studying German like a little, well....German. We didn’t do much leg-work before our last brief trip to Austria, and he was shamed by his inability to order a meal the local tongue.

For all the countries I’ve visited in the last 5 years, I can’t claim to have attempted much foreign language study other than “please”, “thank you”, “peace brother”, “another round” and “without meat” (the last of which is usually met with incomprehensible stares. I guess some phrases don’t translate in Asian countries.) 

Okay, at least I gave Japanese the old college try. I took two semesters of Beginners Japanese and treated it as I did most of my other classes, cramming it in around finals time, regurgitating it on the page and promptly forgetting it 10 minutes later. now that I am a language teacher myself, I realize just how awful the traditional method of learning languages is. High school French was never my forte either. It’s amazing that I suffered through 6 semesters and I can barely order a café au lait in Paris without evoking a tisk-tisk from the waiter as he corrects the gender of said café. The problem is, in order to communicate a very basic thought, you need to learn all the nouns, remember their gender, learn all the verbs and remember how to conjugate them. This can take years! I’m too impatient. I was also never very good at memorization anyway.

And here I’ve moved to a country with what is widely known as one of the hardest mother tongues in the world! There are entire words--nay--sentences without vowels. Well at least that’s how they sound to me. Thankfully, if you make an honest attempt to order in Czech, your waitress might actually crack a smile, correct you gently and, depending how generous she feels, reduce your tourist tax accordingly. 

We’re passing into Austria now. The rolling hills and vineyards look like something out of a movie. (gah, am I forever reduced to that banal expression?)  It’s true though, I have no other way to describe things here. Castle: “movie!” 600 year old clock: “movie!” Beer garden in a park atop a hill that overlooks the rooftops of Prague: “movie!” And a little bit of paradise too.

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