by Anton Wills-Eve

<a href=””>Take That, Rosetta!</a>

a language I don’t know yet.


                    HOW ROSE ATE HER OWN WORDS.


Without any doubt I would want to be fluent in American. I already understand a lot of it and can write and read and talk it, well 23 of its dialects, but completely fluently? No, Mr Webster saw to that. I am not actually 100% fluent in any language but probably I could claim 99.8761% in English. Where I fall down is the limit of my vocabulary. There are still quite a lot of words I don’t know, probably never will, so although I’m nearly there what I have will have to suffice.

But why would I choose American? Well it would involve the smallest amount of learning, writing, reading and speaking. It is the one language I could actually see myself getting over 99% fluent in and that would be a wonderful feeling of achievement. At present I am about 98.14% fluent in most American versions of itself but perhaps I exaggerate. I may have a bit of trouble in inland North Eastern Alaska when it comes to coloquialisms and I know that the I have not yet mastered Hispanic Arizonian verbs. My youngest son’s American sister-in-law comes from New Mexico and I can talk back to her perfectly, but she assures me there is a difference over the state border. I must get over there and see if I can detect it.

In literature the greatest challenge for me with American is the spelling of words with which I am familiar in English. I remember tearing Henry James to pieces in my last year’s exams at school because he used the ‘Oxford’ Z, for those of you who know what that is, and I thought it a tragedy that a man who had mastered our language as well as he had should fall at the last fence – alphabetically literally – and pretend he thought Oxford spelling meant spelling as people did in Oxford, England. It doesn’t. It means in the style of academics at the University of Oxford. Not the same thing at all.

But many people flatter me and say how incredibly well I speak those languages which I have made a lot of headway in during my life. This is due largely to two things which on reflection I am sure are good tips on how to master a foreign tongue. I lived more than 28 years altogether outside the English speaking world so learned to speak like the people I was with. And I was blessed with a natural ability to mimic both vocally and in my gestures. But the other main help was greatly due to my passion for sports and classical music. You learn the words of arias in foreign tongues because you love them and they soon come naturally. And with sports you listen to the commentator and, as you can see what he is saying, you also can learn what his sounds, and thus his words, mean. Well I have strayed a little from the prompt if not the topic but I wish I had been asked which of my six fluent languages I found most difficult to overcome. You see the answer is I couldn’t possibly know. If I had known then, of course, the natural side of picking up the language would have made me worry about whether I was doing it right and that would almost certainly have made me do it wrong!