Thursday, December 20, 2007

Italian for Christmas

I've been dabbling with Italian. I know not a word -- or didn't, until last week -- but I've been working my way through the Schaum's outline of grammar, the last couple days, with great pleasure. It's a curiously satisfying language, sitting easy in the mouth, requiring none of the pursing and gagging of French or the spitting and coughing of German. Just a mellowed and agreeable form of Latin.

The only thing that continually brings me up short is that a person who grew up with English and German expects 'h' in a consonant cluster to mark palatalization; the Italians, perversely, use it to mark the opposite. So "perche" is pronounced perkay, and "perce" -- if there is such a word -- would be pronounced perchay. No English-speaker, of course, is in any position to criticize other languages' spelling habits, but I wish they'd chosen a less outlandish way to represent hardening than by adding the consonant everyone else uses to represent softening.

I had picked up my Greek grammar, a couple weeks ago, but I didn't want something hard. I'm tired. I wanted something easy, that would make me feel smart. Italian was just the thing. Now I need to find something like an Italian translation of the Chronicles of Narnia, some simple children's text that I've read aloud a million times, to pick up vocabulary and idiom.

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