Chapter VIII – Part 8

$ You know, at school we are trained to learn something in the classrooms and to revise it at home. Since everything is a part of a smart program, after you graduate you’re supposed to know many things from many domains. And it’s not the point I’m going to make that you finish school, eat a fish fillet and wonder: is fish invertebrate? Or when they say it’s Einstein’s birthday and you realize you don’t know what E=mc2 stands for.

$ Right. I would compare applying reforms in the school programs with cleaning the Augean stables.

$ At least I know who Augeas was. Anyway, the idea of learning with a teacher became so rooted in me that I wasn’t able to buy your text: I am preparing you to self-education, you’ll be independent from language courses.

$ We’re coming back to the source, to the times when you were learning your mother tongue.

$ Only now it is easier because my background is much more developed, e.g.: I’ve got a large experience learning English. I saw it very clearly today while correcting my dictation.

$ I am very, very happy to hear that. To learn a foreign language doesn’t require a teacher in a classical meaning of the word (a philologist, in a classroom, with a class register, student books, homework). Nevertheless, without any help of other people it would be unrealistic, however still possible, all in all we learn languages first and foremost in order to communicate. By the way, let me tell you how I have learned Catalan. For one month I used to live in Catalonia and I became friends with a local girl who ran a shop with healthy food. So she wasn’t a teacher in the classical meaning of the word which I described a moment ago. I suggested exchanging her Catalan for my English. We used to learn half an hour a day each language. My learning consisted in working on a book she used to bring, a book about birds, by the way. She would read a sentence or a half and I would repeat it. My task was easy because I knew French and Spanish. While looking at the text I practically understood it. We started reading two sentences, than half a page, than a whole page, day by day more and more. Then I read myself and she listened and commented or corrected me if necessary.

$ How did you switch from reading to speaking?

$ Reading was the first step every day. The next task, I set myself, was to master it.

$ Do you mean: to learn it by heart?

$ More or less. I don’t want to exaggerate. I recited the text, gazing now and then at the book. The exercise consisted in saying out loud the whole sentences in Catalan, gradually ingesting various expression (e.g. ‘for the first time in my life’, ‘so far’, ‘some years later’), observing how you talk in this language about the present, the future and the past.

$ In other words, you applied Broniarek’s method without writing down the translation in order to replay the original text perfectly.

$ That’s well put. I had the enormous advantage of being in Catalonia. My language education was not only working on a book about birds but also listening to people around me, reading all sort of inscriptions, briefly: life. Some time later I started to understand my interlocutors regardless of whether they talked to me in Spanish or in Catalan. However, I answered in Spanish. I remember the day I unclogged. One of the owners of a café where I was a regular customer didn’t know I was learning Catalan. He started speaking to me in Catalan and after having said 2-3 sentences he realized he was speaking Catalan to me and said: Sorry, I forgot you didn’t speak Catalan. And I said: No pasa rès. And so we kept on speaking Catalan.

$ It’s a very beautiful story. And with a moral.

$ What’s the moral?

$ Find your way, work and you’ll get what you want to.

$ The Rolling Stones sing: you can’t always get what you want to.

$ They don’t have faith. They don’t believe in themselves.

$ That’s my girl.

$ Besides, you cannot get what you want to if you want everything at once.

$ From the perspective of the linear time you’re absolutely right. In the time space you get everything at once, here and now.

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