Monday, 10 February 2014

WordPress Daily Prompt: Take That Rosetta!

If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be? Why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills? 

Photographers, artists, poets: show us TONGUE.

Fluffy says "MEOW"

“Fluffy, just a sweet little feline tongue, not framed by sharp vampire type teeth.”

“Mrs. Human, no self-respecting feline does sweet.”

I decided to end that conversation, felines have their own way of expressing themselves.

I assume the reference to Rosetta is the Rosetta stone. A stone plate inscribed in three languages, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script (whatever that is) and ancient Greek. It probably tells a joke about an Egyptian that could not write, so only did pictures, an educated Egyptian who could write and a Greek that met in the pub etc. etc. You know how those jokes go. I actually saw the original stone in the British Museum and one of our first history lessons in high school mentioned this key to the ancient languages, but I was always doubtful.

I personally think it was a gimmick they invented for the museum, to get the people in. After all the British stole the Parthenon marbles from Greece and the Greeks never forgave them. The museum probably decided to do the Rosetta thing on their own. If it was genuine, then who translated it all? The ancient Greeks did not live side by side with the Egyptians. The Egyptians were already sealed away in their chambers in the pyramids wrapped in bandages when the Greeks learned to write, I am sure. And the Demotics? They were just invented to fill in the stone in the middle, to make it look good. They were also supposed to be Egyptians, but decided to write with dots and curves instead of pictures.

I can see the team of artists sitting in the basement of the British museum chiselling away. “Hey Fred, how shall I do the cat?” “Just scrape a straight line with a curve on each side to represent the ears.” “Good idea Joe, will do. Ow!” “Something wrong Fred?” “The chisel slipped and now I have three curves.” “No problem Joe, they will probably think the cats had three ears.” “Aristotle, how are you progressing with the Greek part?” “OK, luckily we Greeks only have 24 letters.”, or something like that. And so the Rosetta stone was born.

Today I awoke, walked to the kitchen and began to talk to Mr. Swiss in Swiss German. I was even thinking in Swiss German. This did not happen overnight, it took forty-six years and even now it is not “Fehlerfrei” (without mistakes). I am almost fluent in that strange German dialect, get through with French and Italian and if I am really pushed can do it in Russian, although I do not have enough practice with my Russian.

I even spent a year learning Arabic, but this was a thing of impossibility. No-one speaks Arabic (except perhaps some Emirate States), at least not the Arabic I learned. They all do their own thing and even the Arabs amongst themselves do not always understand each other. Of course, there is the so-called high Arabic spoken on the radio and what the kids learn at school, but it all boils down to the place where you grow up.

Waking up tomorrow and speaking a foreign language of your choice would not be my thing. It would be taking a short cut and not suffering the fun of making mistakes on the way. Mr. Swiss still enjoys my mispronunciation of some words in Swiss German, although I am convinced I make no mistakes and he just misunderstands what I actually wanted to say. 

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