The spread that takes over the dining room table as I work on Dutch is immense. Homework, two dictionaries, past sheets on verbs and grammatical rules I’ve collected, and a large language book that often references exactly what I need when I need it. I can rarely get thru a sentence without turning to at least one of these tools to check a definition, spelling, or conjugation. It’s a pain to haul it all out, set it all up. Even more of a pain to work that way, tossing one book to the side for another, scribbling down two words at a time, and consulting so much I sometimes forget what the hell I’m working on.
Does not help that the other day I couldn’t remember how to spell “could” in English. It didn’t look correct to me, and I sat and pondered why the hell there was an ‘L’ in it in the first place. I realized the three famous rhyming English words – could, should, would – are strange animals in language. They imply shame. You could have done more. You should have done more. This wouldn’t have happened but for this or that. They are nags over the past, blame throwers. They imply things would have been much nicer if only this screw-up hadn’t occurred.
I think a lot can be learned from languages. Not just communication, but culture. It’s the idioms that give it away. Growing up with only one language, one communication style…you get blinded to it. Or maybe I was just ignorant of it right up to the point I began working on Dutch.
American English uses ‘look’ a lot rather than ‘listen’. They mean ‘listen’: look, I didn’t want to be the one to tell you this… or look, we’ll be okay. When you take a step away from it, it sounds funny. It literally makes no sense to use ‘look’. But American culture (if there is such a thing) places value on speed. Get it done and get it done quickly. Their use of ‘look’ rather than ‘listen’ emphasizes that. Your eyes can take in far more than your ear can in the same amount of time. So, looking is quicker than listening, ergo, look. They ask you to understand it instantly. They do not want to waste time convincing you or debating the merits of their statement. They want comprehension. NOW. Similarly, in American English you ‘run the risk’, while in Dutch, you ‘walk the risk’. The difference is speed. Americans do everything faster.
Speed is not an indicator of value.
I was weaned on ‘could, should, would’. Weaned on speed. Do more, go faster, be better, work, work, WORK, you damned workhorse! And honestly, I don’t know my limits. I go until I become such a raging bitch I grow unbearable to be around.
I have never gone ’til I drop. I don’t where that limit is.
That…haunts me. Feeling like I have more in me, if only I could (there’s that word again!) control myself.
Here it is Sunday, and I have not yet begun my writing that’s due on Monday. Too many hours fiddling with homework sentences, conjugating verbs and trying to learn every single word. I feel behind, yet I know that (so far) every week I’ve been the only one in class to hand in every single bit of homework every time. My brother thinks my teachers are searching for my limits. They want to know how much is too much. I want to be Miss Polly Perfect, so I’m sweating. More time, every day. No time for English. No time for my scripts.
I feel myself nearing that anger edge, which is where I don’t want to go. Keep me busy, keep me challenged – yes. But drive me mad? No.
And here’s the crunch: I know that if I work hard now to capture this, it’ll be easier. Right now I spend about an hour of my time on every sheet of homework. Give me 8-10 sheets, and there’s my regular work rotation every day. Add into that writing stories and memorizing irregular verbs and you’re encroaching on ME time. Oh, and I’m forgetting reading. I’m supposed to be reading, too. But…if I was doing this in English, I wouldn’t spend even half that time on it. And I want to get there with Dutch. So either I work hard now, or keep struggling.
My American side is screaming for quick fix. Some leap-frog pill or hypnosis trick that’ll get me over this hump. Bought some fish from the vendor outside for dinner last night. Listened to a conversation in Dutch. Heard SO many words from my homework – recognized them immediately. But I still struggled with the meaning. My head was three steps behind – oh, that word…what does that mean again?
How do I get myself to learn?
Pure repetition is a recipe for madness. As is more work. I’ve got to get it into my writing. Pick up a verb and use it, in all its forms. Maybe I’ll ask my teachers for some of that. Or maybe I’ll just start to do it.
Thinking I might abandon my written homework this week in favor of my little story. It’s not really on target subject-wise, but the object of our written homework is to get us writing, and it IS writing. Plus…it’s what I want to write. If my teachers give me leeway on subject matter, they won’t be able to stop me writing. That is, when I have an idea. I don’t expect that of me every week. I think it’s the one area of my life I’ve managed to totally eliminate the ‘could, should, would’. It’s impossible – even for me – to come up with decent story material every week.
Once again, I find my comfort in the written word. Doesn’t matter these days if it’s English or Dutch.
I can slow down to tell my stories.
It’s the spread of my mind.