Monday, 19 July 2010

One step. Two step. Three step.

"The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult."  ~Marie de Vichy-Chamrond, Marquise du Deffand, letter to Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, 7 July 1763

In the past few days I have taken three tiny steps towards my humble goal of conquering the European languages.

Translating a couple of poems written by Endre Ady into Swedish has been fun but tiring. Hungarian isn’t exactly an easy language but it has the same sort of playfulness as Finnish, and to a lesser extent, the Slavic languages. It’s like creating a puzzle from all the grammatical pieces that are lying spread out on the floor. Why Swedish then? That’s a good question since I have also done some translation work from French into Finnish. If I’m translating for fun, which sometimes is the case, I usually pick my source language randomly. Hungarian and Swedish somehow belong together since I’m studying Hungarian at a Swedish university where most of the teaching is (evidently) in Swedish. It’s funny that: once you are used to combining two languages, it feels strange to use them with any other languages. The same thing happens in Russian; I could never imagine translating Russian into any other language than English, since that’s what I spent 4 years of my life doing.

I have also tried to brainwash myself into thinking in Polish, but it’s not going too well, I’m appalled with my own level at the moment. The verbs are messing it up, together with the instrumental case. The basic rule is that the instrumental case is used with the verb to be = by´c, but I keep using the nominative instead.

And there is actually a fourth step, but it’s even smaller than the others, it can hardly be called a step at all: tonight my bedtime story will consist of beginner’s Czech.

5 comments:

Natalie said...

Oh my. I can barely manage to translate from Russian to English, or vice versa, and you're doing Hungarian to Swedish, French to Finnish, and Russian to English? And on top of that, you're thinking in Polish? Wow, I'm jealous :)

I'm surprised you're having trouble with the instrumental case with the Polish verb for to be. Russian has that too, to a certain extent, no? Like that last line in the film Баллада о Солдате, for example: Он был... солдатом, русским солдатом.

Чем ты занимаешься в университете? Венгерским языком?

I'm adding you to my blogroll. I've been meaning to for some time, but have kept forgetting.

Jessica said...

Wow - I am so impressed. My German is pathetic (used to speak it regularly as a child) and my Czech is even worse.

Thanks for the boost to improve.

Zsuzsi said...

Natalie, спасибо тебе за комментарию, я уже раньше изучила русский язык и европейскую политику в университете, потом я работала, но поняла, что я хотела продолжать учебы, и так в этом году начинаются второй курс венгерского языка, а я также начну заниматься психологией, и быть может, анализом рисков и политики.
Знаю польский язык довольно хорошо, но на самом деле я много забыла, поэтому сейчас мне надо промыть свои мозги, чтобы мочь думать и говорит на этом языке с самой лучшей подружкой :)
I don't really get the problem with the instrumental case either, because I know the theory but it just keeps coming out wrong...

Jessica, I'm glad if I can inspire you :) Oh, and it's so cool you know Czech :)

Jessica said...

You're too kind. I lived in Brno in 2007/2008 and took six months of intensive Czech lessons before moving and then continued them once I was there.

I think Slavic languages are extremely difficult for native English speakers to learn - my tongue doesn't move the correct way!

Natalie said...

Жужи, спасибо за ответ. Ты хорошо говоришь по-русски.

Сейчас я занимаюсь историей и русским языком. Я тоже продолжаю учебы после того, как окончу универсиет. Но я не знаю чем хочу заниматься.