A Question of Language

AQuestionOfLanguage

My dear OH has some endearing habits, and one of them is to regularly impart little bits of random knowledge – he calls them ‘Interesting Facts of the Day’. The latest one of these turned into a rather amusing conversation.

It went like this:

OH: “Did you know that language is handled in a particular part of the brain?”

Me: “Yeah, colloquially known as the ‘language centre'”

OH: “Broca’s .. ”

Me: “Yes, Broca’s Area”

OH: “Well, did you know that if you learn a second language it’s handled in the same area?”

Me: “Yes, go on … ”

OH: “But if you learn a second language as an adult, you grow a new bit of brain in that area, just for the new language?

Me: “Wow .. you do?”

OH: “Yes!

Me: “Wow. I’ve grown a new bit of brain, and you haven’t!!”

OH: “Yeeees. Demoralising, isn’t it?”

Me: “No! No – you should learn! You can do it! You have the brain.”

OH (Musing): “I wonder what happens to those people who learn more than one new language? What if they learn six new languages – do they grow six new bits of brain? Why don’t their heads explode?”

Me: “Hahaha! You probably handle all the new languages in the one new bit”

OH (Getting a bit sidetracked): “Hey, why is the butter still out?”

Me: “Perchè ho ancora fame”

OH (Trying again): “Why is the butter out?”

Me: “Perchè non ho finito la mia colazione!”

OH: “But why is the butter out? It’ll get all hot and miserable!1

Me: “I told you. I’m still hungry and I haven’t finished my breakfast”

*Pause*

OH: “Yes, but you told me with your new bit of brain, and I heard it with my old one!”

Me: “There is a solution to that … ”

1 OH uses some very picturesque language, sometimes. But in fact I forgot to put the butter away and it did indeed get hot and miserable. Positively depressed and tired of life, in fact, judging by the way it had sagged and was sitting huddled at the bottom of the dish.

Losing my mojo

MisteroDelTrenoBlu

When does it cease to become rest and recuperation and become mere laziness, I wonder?

Since I picked up this bug in November, I have been unwell quite a lot of the time and still don’t feel great. After struggling along for a week trying to pretend everything was normal1, back in those misty autumn days, I decided I had to change tactics and rest.

So I stopped walking the dogs2, I stopped cooking, I stopped getting dressed for the day, and I stopped reading my Italian translation of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train’. There were, of course, other things I stopped doing, but stopping my reading in Italian was a milestone. I simply did not have the mental wherewithall to struggle with it, because yes, it had become a struggle. I also had to stop talking on Skype because .. well, I didn’t a voice worth listening to, and when I talked much, I’d go into paroxysms of coughing and couldn’t stop. For much the same reason, I stopped exercising, too.

Of course, once I’d stopped struggling to read in Italian, I stopped all other Italian studies as well. It’s quite true; when you’re so unwell you keep falling asleep on the couch wrapped in a blanket, it’s pointless to try to concentrate on anything because you simply can’t do it. So, no reading, no writing, no talking, and no games in Italian. I skipped over the posts on Facebook in Italian, and I put away the Italian books and got out an English one (it was a Harlequin romance which just goes to show how unwell I was3).

Once or twice, when I felt a bit better, I opened up Skype and conversed with a couple of people. Then I went downhill again and could barely cope with English again.

And now here we are in January. I’ve just had a chest x-ray because I am still coughing. Nowhere near as badly, but yep, still coughing. No results yet – I won’t get those till next week, so I have plenty of time to convince myself I have lung cancer or TB, or a tomato vine growing down there or something4.

From time to time I have managed to read a short text in Italian, and I no longer have to be in bed by 9.30pm because I’m dead on my feet on the couch, but I still struggle a bit.

But here’s the thing: I no longer know if I’m struggling because I haven’t been exercising properly or stretching my mind, or if I’m struggling because I’m still not over this wretched thing. I might open up Skype tonight and see if I can hold up my end of a conversation. I did manage a short chat with two lovely Italian girls in the Milano Bar yesterday while shopping in the lovely market town of Stamford, and I haven’t forgotten absolutely everything I know, which is nice, but I’m a bit nervous of going for a protracted conversation in the same way that I’d be nervous of trying to walk into town (a matter of five or six miles), or climb the Tower of Pisa. Just the thought of that makes me want to go and lie down.

PisaSteps

The other day, I promised to dust off the treadmill, and I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t do it. Instead, we found ourselves vacuuming and moving furniture in preparation for a visit from the Grandtwins and it was quite enough exercise, thankyouverymuch. OH thought so, too, and went so far as to forbid me to have anything to do with the treadmill whatsoever. So it’s still stacked with boxes, though one is now nearly empty. I have at least been trying.

The day before yesterday I decided I was about ready to pick up my Italian reading again, and I couldn’t find that damned book! ‘Il Mistero Del Treno Azurro’ was nowhere to be seen. I looked high and low. I looked everywhere … Finally it was run to earth yesterday in a shopping bag – I must have taken it somewhere thinking I might need something to read, and it never got put back on the shelf because of my lack of mojo (see title, above).

TreadmillBoxes-Web

I guess now I have no excuse … but I might have to start again at the beginning again. How am I supposed to remember who did what to whom after all this time?

Oh well. I suppose I’ll need something to do while I’m in hospital getting the tomato taken out of my lung.

1 Whatever the hell ‘normal’ is.

2 It’s very hard to walk a greyhound who likes you to run with him when you have hardly enough breath to walk across the kitchen, so I let OH do it. ‘Let OH do it’ being a euphemism for ‘refused to go outside at all’. When he went down with it, too, I had to help with the dogs, but I’m pretty sure that’s what made me ill again.

3 I knew I was feeling a little bit better when I graduated to Georgette Heyer. Later I moved on to Katie Fforde, but I’m not sure it’s actually intellectually superior to Heyer. However, now I’m reading Terry Pratchett, I know I’m making progress. I’m getting the jokes and everything!

4 I’m really, really good at this. I’ve had so much practice, you see.