fimmtudagur, janúar 19, 2006

the hardest thing

...about living here is maybe the language. But not the language as a whole, because often I understand it quite well, and given time I can even plow my way through a newspaper article in Blaðið. And standing around in the kitchen at work shooting the breeze about weekend plans isn't all that hard either. Nor is bantering with the passport control guards on the way back into Iceland. Nor discussing work items in Icelandic, given a patient counterpart.

No, the hardest thing is coming late to a lunch table full of coworkers, all of whom are in hysterics at the rapid-fire story being told by the guy in the center of the table. And not having a clue what the story is about, being unable to find any vocabulary "hooks" into the meaning, and having to content myself with "understanding" the basic grammatical structure yet none of the funny content. Hey, I chose it, but it doesn't make it easy.

7 Comments:

Blogger Byron said...

Hey I know what you mean. It took me a long time before I could really understand British humour - and no, that's nothing to do with the myth that it's not very good, because as a matter of fact I now happen to think that the English are funnier than most other cultures I know.

You know how people say that you really are fluent in a language when you find yourself thinking in that language rather than translating from your own? I think you are really fluent when you can laugh in a foreign language, or even better, make somebody laugh in their native language (not *at* you, but rather *with* you). And it's a great feeling when that happens. You'll be there soon, don't worry :-)

19.1.06  
Anonymous Angel said...

I so feel your pain, but I must say you are doing better than I did when it comes to speaking and writing Icelandic. I did not start to speak Icelandic until I was here about 4 years and I do not dare try and put sentences together on paper without help from my children or husband. I could not take the constant laughing 'at' me for making silly mistakes when I first attempted to speak the language, now I do not give a crap.

Byron, I love british humour...it did take me a while to get it though. Even growing up watching Benny Hill I didn't think it was that funny. I dream in Icelandic and when talking to relatives in the U.S I have to try and find words in English that I know in Icelandic, it is funny at times.

19.1.06  
Blogger JB said...

Thanks for the encouragement, you two. I think the key for me is going to be to read more novels and nonfiction books. I need to pick up a lot of words, and Reykjavík-Icelandic is not very conducive to that. So fast and jumbled... now if I lived in the Promised Land of either Akureyri or Ísafjörður I think I would be in better shape... it's like the Tower of Babel up there.

19.1.06  
Blogger Byron said...

That happens to me as well! Sometimes I go back home and use English syntax in Italian, which is entirely ridiculous and everybody takes the piss! And yes, sometimes I just can't think of words in Italian that come naturally to me in English. It's the reverse immigrant process ;-)

As for British humour, I'm not sure about Benny Hill...but I would recommend Monty Python, Eddie Izzard, The Office and Just A Minute (downloadable on http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4), and all things wordy and witty like Jonathan Ross and Ali G.

J - have you read any Laxness? I've been trying with a translation of Independent People which Ingvar gave me, to little success. I'd recommend films as well though, they're great for collecting new words.

20.1.06  
Blogger JB said...

It took 50 or more pages to get into my translation of Independent People, but it was well worth the effort. It was a fine, fine novel that touched me very deeply. The kind of story that could make the Red Line subway in Boston transform itself into a distant moor in Iceland.

It is my goal to go back and read this book in Icelandic, but it's harder than most to read (I'm told) because of all of the playing with the language that Laxness does.

20.1.06  
Anonymous Sirry said...

Hey Jared, I've been through this quite a few times. You just gotta have faith that one day, you'll be laughing along with them all, not having them laugh at you.
Oh, there are so many moments of embarressement that I can think of, yet I always knew that I'd be the one with all my language skills at the end of the day, not them.
Today I'm a superstar with languages :D and if you can get the Icelandic language - A HUGE applause from me ;o)
It's like running a marathon, but you gotta stick with it as, at the end of the day WOW you'll gain such tremendous respect from all those Icelanders that once laughed .... at you :D

20.1.06  
Blogger JB said...

Whoa, whoa, they weren't laughing *at* me. At least I don' t think so. :-) I'm pretty well-liked at work, having introduced the concept of foosball and all. It's more the feeling of being on the margins. Anyway, Sirrý, thanks for the support, and glad to know that you are still a reader!

20.1.06  

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