tisdag, april 19, 2005

Do You Like My Hat?

In Linguaphone's Lesson 30, we get a more in depth look at Johan. I must assume that Johan is a typical teenage knucklehead. He falls asleep in class. He wants to be an athlete when he grows up. He is eager to get a job at the high paying local grocery on the corner. He wants the money so he can travel.

American teens work so they can get a car.

Big difference. Travel away from home allows a kid to be somebody else for a bit, to experiment with different affects, appearances, attitudes; to see what works and what doesn’t. One can make lots of mistakes and, presumably, learn from it. Fall in love a million times. Get your heart broken a million times. Learn how not to get insulted, or slapped, or insulted and slapped.

Americans, on the other hand, spend their money on a car so they can drive around the neighborhood and be seen on a regular basis by everyone who already knows them. There is no escaping how local people believe you to be at 17, and their impreteur becomes permanent.

Perhaps I am reading too much into Lesson 30.

Johan går i årskurs 9 på groundskolans högstadium
Johan goes in year course 9 at basic school, higher level.

See that? See the simple remark, "goes in 9th grade" and how Swedes will say that instead of "goes to 9th grade." And although certainly we say, "He is in 9th grade" so the difference is subtle, that subtlety makes it all the more frustrating. When listening to an ESL or ETL or English as a Fourth or even Fifth Language individual, the incorrect use of a preposition more than anything else triggers whatever form of bias, prejudice, or misconception on brain power and value as a human being one is likely to encounter at the hands of a native speaker. Getting the prepositions right is critical.

When Swedish friends came to visit, I offered to give "Go Dogs. Go" to their 13 year old boy. He made a face, as did my husband. I was totally dismissed, and I remember feeling a little put out about it. A lot put out, actually. This screwball language is my language and who were they to offer commentary on a book that ever so simply teaches the correct time to use under, over, around, on, in, out, above, at, during, and a series of declarative commands. May they both be cursed with questions about party hats their entire lives.

Anyway. So now I know. Johan goes in 9th grade. Got it.