fredag, december 17, 2004

The Joke Book

Såg du i TV att man snart kan ersätta manniskäns kropps delar med djurorgan?
Saw you in tv that one soon can replace human body parts with animal organs?

Ja. Jag kastade et getöga på det.
Yes. I cast a goat eye towards it.

The largest obstacle I have to learning foreign languages is vocabulary retention. I have studied French, German, Chinese and now Swedish. I do not remember words until they are beaten into me, or I can find a solid mnemonic device. This makes learning very slow, to say nothing of painful, to the point of pure stoppage. Yet I have never lost a passion for learning a foreign language. Last year I got desparate enough to buy a book called "How to Learn Any Language" by Barry Farber, hoping there would be some magic key inside. His advice was to try anything and everything from all types of resources and see what clicks. I already had books, cassettes, dvds and now a spouse. There was nothing left to try.

To make matters worse, I overheard my father talking about his old days as a minor league ball player in the South American leagues. "I don't know why, but I could not pick up Spanish. I tried, but it did not sink in." My dad had a near genius IQ. Although his offspring took a pass on that particular gene of his, I almost gave up completely when I heard the Spanish story. I wondered if I had however acquired the no comprendo gene, something that related to faulty ears or a permanent clog in the vocabulary section of the brain.

I have just returned from Sweden, where I was subjected to abuse on pronounciation and had more words thrown at me that I will never recall. But while there I acquired a book called Stora SkrattBoken. The Big Laugh Book. When I was a kid, I used to go on car rides carrying about Bennet Cerf's Book of Riddles. I like jokes. I don't remember them, either. But I could marry Calvin. I picked up this book not because I expected to laugh much. I doubt the insides contain much that equals the Shouts and Murmurs satire that appears in the New Yorker. I was more interested in exploring the type of joke Swedes tell. Their "angles," if you will.

So last night I started with Joke #1, quoted above. It was as odd as I had hoped. So having a goat's eye must be something they say. (That is the sort of thing my brain remembers, not the foreign word for "goat eye.") But none of this is the point.

This morning, I woke up and remembered the words without even thinking. You have no idea how excited this discovery has made me. Maybe after thirty years of being bad a learning foreign languages I am on to something.

This is not, however, going to make me any more popular at parties. "Did you hear the one about animal parts, Sven? . . . "