Category Archives: Languages

Anglaise

It was the fact that the Swiss HR person had made Daughter anglaise (and she sort of is, half) that influenced me. The first thing we saw as we exited Geneva railway station (after a free – yes – train ride from the airport, on a journey that was almost shorter than the three language announcement for passengers) was a red double decker bus parked across the road. The old style kind, which makes me think of London, which made me say ‘look, an English bus!’

The anglaise Offspring has better eyesight, so she laughed and pointed out that it wasn’t. ‘Can’t you see what the sign says?’ So, this was a double decker – once – bound for Falkirk. Via Kilsyth.

Muppets go to Kilsyth

Once we’d turned in the right direction, we found our hotel, a little bit too uphill for tired and hot witches, but fine when we got there. The (probably Ukrainian) receptionist spoke Swedish, as well as English and French. Naturally. At breakfast the waiters switched effortlessly into English, as did the cleaner. The taxi driver, who was clearly some kind of foreign, immediately rescued us non-French speakers with perfect English. Swiss enough to give another driver the finger, but otherwise most polite.

The places we had our meals in all served us in English (didn’t think to try Swedish). I know, we should have tried harder, and I will, once I know the French for cone. The elderly lady on the short train journey bid us adieu, whereas the chap in Migros said au revoir, and maybe he will, one day.

While Daughter sorted out her anglaise-ness with HR, I walked around town, only resting twice in the English church; once out and once on the way back. I rested some more in the English park, with nice views of the lake.

Lake Geneva

Don’t misunderstand me; I maintain my love for the UK, for the people, the weather and the food. I don’t mind if the British don’t daily switch between five languages. But I mind going to London hotels and being served by people who don’t actually understand English.

It’s just unfortunate that ten years ago I asked Daughter’s school to excuse her from learning French. It was the right request to make at the time, but now it would have been convenient with some basic French knowledge.

I like the orderliness of every balcony in a block of flats having the same colour and pattern awnings. And I might just advise Daughter against the flats for rent in the red light district. The area had seemed ideal, until we walked round and found rather more than we had bargained for.

We’ll see how it goes. The talking, the flat-hunting, and all that. But at least at Migros they have self-checkouts where you don’t suffer from unexpected items in bagging area. It worked so fast and efficiently that even I might try it one day. If it’s au revoir.

A little learning never hurt anyone

Bon jour!

I have come to the realisation that I may have to learn French. After all these years.

This paltry blog post and my language musings come to you courtesy of 36 hours in Geneva and very little sleep. I was requested by Daughter to accompany her there, when she went to do a little recce, as it seems she might spend the next few years there. And reccing is better done in company.

I recced a little extra while she met with important people out near the French border. The kind of place where your mobile phone believes it is in France. I got to go and look at the nice parks where you can sit in the shade of the trees, staring out across the waters of the lake. Where you can maybe have some ice cream while doing so.

In which case it helps to know if you want that ice cream in a hmm or a hmm. By default I ended up with a cone, as it seemed clear(-ish) I didn’t want the ‘other thing.’ It’s interesting being like an immigrant again, but in a situation where you don’t speak the language.

It is of course possible to speak Swedish. You can say adjö and trottoar and toalett and you’ll be quite right. But I might want to learn to string those very useful words together, to make sentences. To make sense.

This post was brought to you by Hot in Geneva.

Merci.

I will have had my tea

The Resident IT Consultant gave me nettle seeds, and a book covered with thistles, for my birthday.

Well, there was a book under the cover, and it’s not as thorny as it sounds. In fact, I’m pretty impressed he managed to smuggle this gift in his luggage, considering I’m the boss here.

A Dictionary of Scottish Phrase and Fable by Ian Crofton, was either chosen for me because I complain I don’t understand what people say. Or – and this is more likely – because he himself wanted to read this book. It’s all very well me owning a huge 500+ pages of a book of explanations to what people are saying, but first I need to catch what they say, which is harder than working out the meaning of it.

I’m fond of the phrase ‘ye’ll have had yer tea’ but I didn’t know it’s what Glaswegians claim people in Edinburgh say to them when they visit. And apparently Ned is not an acronym for non-educated delinquent, which is a disappointment.

As for nicknames I once saw Badger in the queue for security at Edinburgh airpost.  The Broon turned up in Charlotte Square a couple of times when I was there. And we have just had to say goodbye to Champagne Charlie.

(Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, Charles Kennedy.)

Curry Alley sounds nice, but it seems most of the curry houses in this Glasgow street have disappeared. Flit is what we did last year, and it’s not hard to see it’s almost the same as the Swedish flytta. Gilmerton Cove turned up in a recent crime novel, so I have clearly picked up a very little bit of knowledge this year.

And you simply ‘cannae shove yer granny aff a bus.’ It would be most unkind. Besides, she might ‘mak a fraik aboot’ it.

I’ll be a while reading my way through this tome.

That’s ook

‘Ook, what’s that?’ asked Daughter when she received my text message. ‘It’s what you get when the car shakes a bit as you try and say ok,’ I replied.

She was ook with that. And I felt it looked fun, so we continued using ook in writing, whether texting or Skyping or emailing. It’s quite nice to add a new word to the language.

A year on, and I find my new phone doesn’t automatically learn new words even if I use them repeatedly, so I’ve ooked a little less recently. But that’s ook, too.

Then, on our arrival at the end of the ferry queue at Helsingør, we found ourselves waiting behind a car with the registration plate OOK, which was anything but ook. The two young men got out for a smoke ‘while they waited’ and started taking photos of the water and Helsingborg across it.

What they didn’t do was notice that the queue was moving and they were now first in line and we were still behind them. Eventually they woke up to the fact that the world was waiting and they jumped in and got the engine going.

After that we didn’t encounter them until the motorway on the other side, when we found ourselves behind the dusty OOK car again. It was ook, though, as they soon sped off, and we haven’t seen them since.

PRAESA

I can’t believe that Swedish television no longer broadcasts the ceremony at which the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is presented to the winner(s) each year. It used to be such fun to watch. The event still takes place, but you have to be there. I was invited, but Stockholm is a step too far, even from where I am now.

ALMA winners PRAESA

They supposedly provide film clips from the ceremony, but I have never managed to sort the logistics out. So thank goodness for YouTube. Most of the stuff is from when they announced that PRAESA from South Africa had won, but I have found a couple of new interviews done this weekend (or so I believe).

Here is director Carole Bloch talking about their work. Languages are an issue, because they have so many, and not always any books in the languages the children speak.

The second video is with Ntombizanele Mahobe and Malusi Ntoyapi, who work for PRAESA.

It is heartening to learn how much difference they are able to make in children’s lives. I firmly feel that it is better for organisations to receive this mini-Nobel prize for children’s books, than for it to go to individual authors, however deserving.

And ‘English is not the only way to go.’ Remember that.

Cleo

This long awaited novel by Lucy Coats has a most tantalising end. She claims she could only end it like this, and she’s probably right. Probably.

Whatever. You will love this story about the young Cleopatra. At first I thought Lucy seemed very well informed, but it turns out she is only guessing, building her story round what little is known about Cleo. And this is absolutely fine. Fantastic. Wonderful. You know, all those words.

Lucy Coats, Cleo

We meet Cleo at the age of ten as she watches her mother die, and her ghastly half sisters turn on her. Seems it was the expected behaviour in those days. Fast forward to four years later, and it’s time for Cleo to ‘do something about it.’

Cleo is a marvellous girl, very capable, and thinks on her feet. She’s also surrounded by a great gang of helpers, and I do like competent co-characters. Some of Cleo’s are among the best I’ve met for a while.

Once you rid yourself – a little – of the image of Liz Taylor, you can move more properly in the right circles in Alexandria. There’s a lot of bad stuff happening. There are gods on different sides, and people can be killed on a whim. Crocodiles, hippos; all the usual weapons.

This is the first of three books, which is logical, as Cleo’s sisters are so bad they will need plenty of time to be sorted out (I hope), and any romance will need to mature, and characters have to be brave in the face of so many hippos, or worse.

The importance of libraries should not be under-estimated even for so long ago. We’re in Alexandria, after all. As for Cleo and her friends, I’d like to say everything will be fine once we’ve got all three books. The question is, will it? I’m sure whatever happens, that the journey will have been worth it.

CrimeFest

I was going to waffle a wee bit about yet another CrimeFest I’m not actually at. (And half glad I’m not, because of that ‘new-ish’ intolerance to travel and crowds.) The main reason I would have wanted to be there was to hear Maj Sjöwall. But we can’t have everything.

Andreas Norman, Into A Raging Blaze

But you’ll be spared the waffling, because the only other comment I have to make about this Bristol weekend gathering of professional killers – who according to Stuart Neville ‘are generally friendly’ – is that they announced the shortlist for the CWA International Dagger on Friday evening. And they’ve had the good taste to include Into a Raging Blaze by Andreas Norman, mostly famous around these parts for having been translated ‘in-house’ by Son of Bookwitch.

I’m actually reasonably proud.

And in the Short Story Dagger, the aforementioned Stuart Neville has been shortlisted for his contribution to the Oxcrimes anthology with Juror 8, which was my favourite. Well done, there too.

May both my favourites win.