29.11.12

As to understand


“Phew!” she puffed out her cheeks and blew the air out, hard and slow with exhaustion and an epiphany. “I did not realise that English is so hard.”

Granted, we'd just marched through the rigours of future time and she was entitled to flee the room screaming and tearing her hair out if she felt inclined, I gave a playful jab, “As hard as Finnish?”

The class of five native Finnish speakers erupted (as well as they could in English), “No this is much harder!” they agreed.

Strangely enough most Finns are convinced that their language is the most complex tongue imaginable – though they will narrow it down to the hardest European language.

I’m not convinced at all that some languages are harder than others, even though I’ve even seen several studies that claim Mandarin or Cantonese are the hardest languages in the world to learn - somehow, I don’t think the Chinese would agree. It would also imply that speakers of the languages would be inherently cleverer than the rest of the world. Claiming that a language is harder or easier is usually a Eurocentric exercise, with English and its cousins as the norm.

Still, back to us, fighting to be understood and to understand, be it in Finnish or in English.  As an adult it’s a humbling experience to be reduced from a once eloquent speaker to babbling like a toddler searching for a word or phrase that never quite means what you want it to.  

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