Tag Archives: language

six word story every day

Six Word Story Every Day is ‘a daily storytelling exploration through language and typography’ by a collaboration of artists and designers. When I first saw the concept, it reminded me of Hint Fiction, with a design component. I was delighted to read in the About section that the inspiration was indeed the story which Ernest Hemingway regarded as his best: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The hint fiction genre was inspired by this story, challenging writers to compile a story in 25 words or less.

The stories compiled in SWSED utilize only six words, with plenty of support from visual elements. One of the requirements of hint fiction is that the story is complete in itself. It should ignite the imagination, but need no further explanation. Although many of the stories in SWSED are more of a phrase or slogan (‘Say something that is worth saying’), the level of creativity makes it a joy to browse through the entries.

dreaming auf Deutsch

Lately, bits of German have begun to peek through my dreams. After several years of studying the language, to have a phrase, sentence, even a conversation appear in my dreams feels like I have passed a sacred milestone. Looking a bit more into the link between language learning and dreams, I found this New York Times article, which reads:

“…dreamtime fluency is a metaphor for becoming an insider, someone for whom the language isn’t foreign and whose own nativeness is neither feat nor achievement; it just is, as natural as breathing.”

I wish I could say German is no longer foreign, but that probably won’t be the case for many years. One curious thing, until the last six months I have never thought about language consciously while dreaming – in what I assume was English, my native language. Something about the appearance of German in my dreams causes me to actually register the change. It’s an “Aha, this is something different, but I know it” moment. Strange, isn’t it? Do you speak any other languages? Have they ever appeared in your dreams? (image via)

a photo and a quote

Two things I love: poetic language and a string of lights.

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women. And, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”

– John Keating, Dead Poet’s Society (via unicornology)

“We can’t really know what a pleasure it is to run in our own language until we’re forced to stumble in someone else’s.”

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

A quote that rang true for me, with my collection of foreign language books and an ever-evasive fluency of German. I have lived in three countries, but somehow I have never had that privilege of (passionately) studying the language of a country in which I was living. Here in the Netherlands, I have a comfortable level of Dutch, but my real aim has been fluency in German, the language of Marcus. While living in Seoul, I picked up Korean quickly and still scribble away bored nothings in Hangul, but my heart was busy improving my French. Growing up in the States, I studied Spanish, Latin and French. A foundation for each is there, but now is the time to focus on just one. Stumbling on.

Thirteen Words

…beautiful and without a 1 to 1 translation in English.

1. Waldeinsamkeit (German): the feeling of being alone in the woods

2. Ilunga (Tshiluba, Congo): a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time

3. Taarradhin (Arabic): a way of resolving a problem without anyone losing face (not the same as our concept of a compromise – everyone wins)

4. Litost (Czech): a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery

5. Esprit de l’escalier (French): a witty remark that occurs to you too late, literally on the way down the stairs…

6. Meraki (Greek): doing something with soul, creativity, or love

7. Yoko meshi (Japanese): literally ‘a meal eaten sideways’, referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language:

8. Duende (Spanish): a climactic show of spirit in a performance or work of art, which might be fulfilled in flamenco dancing, or bull-fighting, etc.

9. Guanxi (Mandarin): in traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by  giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favour, but you can also use up your guanxi by asking for a favour to be repaid.

10. Pochemuchka (Russian): a person who asks a lot of questions

11. Tingo (Pascuense language of Easter Island): to borrow objects one by one from a neighbour’s house until there is nothing left

12. Radioukacz (Polish): a person who worked as a telegraphist for the resistance movements on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain

13. Selathirupavar (Tamil): a word used to define a certain type of absence without official leave in face of duty

And one more to make 14:

The Samoan word for cowardice is peamoku – or unfinished tattoo.

(via constantwanderlust: thehermitage)

Language in Flux

“Not until the 17th century did people begin thinking that the language needed to be codified, and the details of who would do that and how have yet to be resolved. Should it be accomplished through a government-sponsored academy, an officially sanctioned dictionary, or what? These and other means were attempted, but meanwhile ordinary folks, dang them, kept right on talking and writing however they wanted, inventing words, using contractions and so on.”

NY Times article reviewing ‘The Lexicographer’s Dilemma‘ by Jack Lynch

Ich Lerne Deutsch…

Last night, a substitute teacher asked her temporary (primary level, beginner, amateur, basic “Trinkst du Tee mit Milch?” skillz) students why it was they had chosen German to learn.

After almost six months of classes, this was the first time we had been asked this as a group.

The question bounced across the rows of desks and I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear that most students’ reasons were to do with love: an Austrian husband; a long-distance boyfriend in Bavaria; tangled family roots; a soon-to-be-son-in-law; newly-weds about to embark on a European adventure.

And then,

a dancer,

a musician (and her friend),

and a writer

for whom the language simply got under her skin.

(via The Literary Piano)

Graffiti in the West Bank


The recent completion of the spraying of an essay by Farid Esack, professor and anti-apartheid activist, onto the West Bank barrier is a strong example of the power of visual art to become a tool of resistance. Of course, this isn’t the first wall to be turned into a canvas, the Berlin Wall being just one example. In Palestine, local taggers Faris Arouri, Yousef Nijim, and Raji Najamare are funded through the Dutch organization Send a Message and for 30 they will spray a work of your choice onto the wall. Esack’s essay is their largest feat yet. At 1,998 words long, the piece consumed 500 cans of spray paint and 300 cans of white paint. Yet it occupied a mere mile of the 463 mile-long barrier. Esack writes:

Arriving in your land, the land of Palestine, the sense of deja vu is inescapable. I am struck by the similarities. In some ways, all of us are the children of our histories. Yet, we may also choose to be struck by the stories of others. Perhaps this ability is what is called morality. We cannot always act upon what we see but we always have the freedom to see and to be moved.

The Lost Art of Reading Aloud

Reading from Moliere

Sunday morning reading the New York Times. I read this one aloud:

Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud by Verlyn Klinkenborg

“Reading aloud recaptures the physicality of words. To read with your lungs and diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone. The language becomes a part of the body, which is why there is always a curious tenderness, almost an erotic quality, in those 18th- and 19th-century literary scenes where a book is being read aloud in mixed company. The words are not mere words. They are the breath and mind, perhaps even the soul, of the person who is reading.”