Still waiting

My operation didn’t take place yesterday, but it might just happen today. I’ve been through the pre-op checklist and talked to the surgeon and anesthetist. They said they will try to fit me in today, but cannot guarantee it. I’m feeling very tired, hungry and thirsty as I didn’t sleep well last night, and haven’t had anything to eat or drink since yesterday.

Everybody is very friendly and helpful here, but I wouldn’t recommend a stay in hospital, if you can avoid it.

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Up North

The view from the window nearest me in Lancaster Royal Infirmary

After being discharged from St Mary’s Hospital yesterday, I took a taxi to Euston, with a Somali driver. I managed to get myself to the ticket hall and bought a ticket. Then asked for assistance to get to the train – I can’t put any weight on my broken ankle at the moment so have to hop everywhere with the crutches, which is tiring and tricky, especially up and down steps. Fortunately there was a train in the station and I only had to wait about 5 minutes before it left.

It was a direct train and took about three hours to get to Lancaster. I just sat, looked out of the window, dozed off a bit, and eavesdropped on the conversations around me. There was a family in front of me who were speaking in a mixture of English and maybe a language from India – I don’t know which one. Behind me were a Russian-sounding mother and son who spoke mainly in English, but the mother occasionally slipped into Russian.

My mum met me at Lancaster station and took me to the local hospital – Lancaster Royal Infirmary, which is just down the road from where I went to school. We waited for quite a while, saw various doctors and nurses, I had some more x-rays, then they decided to admit me rather than letting me go home and come back in a few days. We waited some more while they found me a bed.

This morning they told me that they won’t be able to operate on my ankle until tomorrow, so I’ve been taking it easy, doing a bit of work, listening to podcasts and snoozing. My mum came to visit this afternoon and brought me some grapes, awfully clichéd I know, but nice and tasty.

This hospital is a lot less multilingual than St Mary’s in London. So far the only language I’ve heard here is English, mainly with a Lancashire accent. I’ve found myself speaking with a bit of Lancashire accent as well. Even though I grew up in this area, I never had much of a local accent. However it sounds familiar and pleasant to my ears, and comes easily to my tongue.

English, General, Language, Russian, Travel 2 Comments

Multilingual hospital

The staff and patients in the hospital are from many different places and speak a variety of languages.

Yesterday I overheard a consultation involving a man from Afghanistan who spoke no English, so his relatives were interpreting. I couldn’t tell if he was speaking Dari or Pashto or another language, as I’m not familiar with languages from that region.

When I was chatting with the ambulance crew, who were all from Australia, and mentioned that I speak a variety of languages, one of them joked that she barely speaks English. This seems to be quite a common reaction when monolinguals encouter polyglots.

One of the doctors I saw yesterday told me that they often need interpreters in the hospital and frequently use phone-based ones. The languages most in demand at the moment are Arabic and Farsi.

I’m going home in a little while, which will be an adventure and challenge, and will get my ankle fixed properly tomorrow in Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, hopefully.

Change of plan – I will have the operation in Lancaster, then stay with my Mum, who lives nearby, while recovering.

Arabic, English, Language, Persian (Farsi) 1 Comment

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording of part of a song in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 6 Comments

Slight mishap

A photo of Regent's Park in London

Today I had a nice walk and lunch in Regent’s Park (see above), then went ice skating in Queensway (pictured below).

A photo of Queensway ice rink in London - the scene of my slight mishap

The skating went well for the first hour or so. Then I fell awkwardly and dislocated and fractured my ankle. The staff at the ice rink helped me off the ice and called an ambulance. It came quickly and took me to the nearby Sy Mary’s Hospital.

They have straightened the ankle and put a temporary cast on it, but I will need an operation to fix it properly. I just saw one of the orthopedic surgeons who recomended that I return to Bangor and have the operation there. They are arranging that now.

Everyone had been wonderfully helpful and nice, and I haven’t had to wait nearly as long as the last time I was in hospital. That time it was my wrist that I fractured while roller blading.

I’m not sure when I’ll get back to Bangor, and it won’t be an easy journey as my anke hurts a lot if I try to move it.

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Homeward bound

Yesterday I had a good time in London with a Russian-speaking friend. We talked mainly in English with a sprinkling of Russian from time to time. In the morning we went to the Design Museum and saw a special exhibition about Moscow, which was interesting. Then had a wander around Holland Park, which is beautiful, especially at this time of year when lots of trees are in blossom (see below).

A photo of the Kyoto Garden (京都庭園) Holland Park in London

After lunch in Hammersmith we played mini golf in Acton Park, which was great fun. Neither of us were very good, but I did manage to get one hole in one. In the evening we went tango dancing, then watched a Russian film – an interesting re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast story called Аленький цветочек (The Scarlet Flower). There were no subtitles, and my Russian isn’t yet good enough to understand much, so my friend translated for me. The Russian they use in the film is old-fashioned, and they speak in a very dramatic, almost operatic way, so it’s not easy to understand.

Сегодня я еду домой or I’m going home today (“Today I go/travel homeward”). The word домой [dɐˈmoj] is one I learnt and used quite a bit yesterday. It means home, homeward or to the house, and related words/forms include:

дом [dom] = house, home, family, household
дома [ˈdomə] = at home (genetive singular)
домашний [dɐˈmaʂnʲɪj] = home, household, house; private; domestic, family; home-made, homespun
домовой [dəmɐˈvoj] = house; a house spirit or sprite
домосед [dəmɐˈsʲet] = stay-at-home, homebody

Source: Wiktionary

English, Film, General, Language, Russian, Travel, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Languages of London

Last night I went to the first Languages of London meetup – it’s the same group I’ve been going to for a few months (the Polyglot Pub), but with a new name and venue, and more participants.

Some happy polyglots at the Languages of London meet-up in the Wellcome Collection café

The meetup was supposed to take place in the Institute of Education in UCL, which is a good location in central London near Russell Square and Euston. Unfortunately they were closed for the Easter holidays, even though they had confirmed in advance that the venue would be available. So we had to find somewhere else in a hurry. Fortunately we found a good alternative in the café in the nearby Wellcome Collection.

There were more people there last night than have been at any of the Polyglot Pub meetups I’ve been to, from various countries. We chatted about languages, and other things, in a variety of languages, and generally had a good time. I had conversations in English, Welsh, French and Japanese, and spoke odd bits of Spanish and Portuguese. There were also conversations in Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, Thai and a few other languages.

These meetups happen once a month and if you’re in London for the next one. Do come along. They’re for anybody who is learning a language or two, who speaks a few languages, and/or is interested in languages.

Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Language, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish Leave a comment

Tuning into languages

Yesterday I did an interview on Skype with a student of linguistics in Germany who is writing a thesis about acquiring native-like pronunciation in foreign languages. I talked about the methods I used to try to do this – listening, mimicing, learning about the phonology of a language, recording my voice and comparing to native speakers, and so on.

While we were chatting, it occured to me that speaking a foreign language is somewhat like playing a musical instrument, or to singing in tune with others. It particularly resembles playing an instrument like a violin or a trombone, which require you to constantly monitor whether the notes you’re playing are in tune with each other, and with other instruments, if you’re playing in an orchestra or other group, and to make adjustments as necessary.

Your voice is your instrument, and learning to pronounce a foreign language is like tuning your instrument. It’s not something you can do once then forget – to acquire native-like pronunciation you need to do a lot of listening and make lots of little adjustments to your pronunciation. It also helps if you understand how the sounds are produced, especially ones that don’t occur in your mother tongue – studying phonetics and phonology can help.

Even if you know nothing about music, you can probably hear when an instrument or voice is very out of tune. It just sounds wrong and clashes with the other instruments / voices. Similarly if your pronunciation of a foreign language is very different from native speakers, i.e. you have a strong accent, it will sound odd to them, and they may have trouble understanding you. The closer you can get to native-like pronunciation, the easier it will be to communicate.

Do you aim for native-like pronunciation in languages you’re learning?

How to go about this?

English, Language, Language learning, Music, Pronunciation 3 Comments

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording of part of a song in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 6 Comments

Just simply

A useful Russian word I learnt this week is просто [ˈprɔstə], which means easily, simply or just.

Here are some examples of how it is used:

– Нам просто надо выезжать немного раньше обычного.
= We just have to leave, you know, a little earlier than usual.

– я зашёл просто повидаться = I just popped in to see you

– Уж слишком просто запихать матрас сзади.
= It’s way too easy to fit a mattress in the back.

– всё это просто недоразумение = all this is simply a misunderstanding

– Мы просто собираемся выпить = We’re just going in for a drink

– Мне просто не хочется притворяться кем-то другим.
= I just wish I didn’t have to pretend like I was someone else.

– Мне просто нужно включить свои мозги.
= I just need a minute to get my head in gear.

Just, a very useful little word, can also be translated as только [ˈtɔlʲkə], for example:

– Только все это так сложно = It’s just all so complicated
– Они только что забрали их = They just took them
– Он только что ушёл = He’s just left
– Только не сейчас = Not just now

In other contexts there are other ways to translate just:

– Как я и ожидал = Just as I expected
– Это как раз то, что надо = It’s just right
– Ровно два часа = Just two o’clock
– Я уже собрался позвонить = I was just about to phone
– Она столь же умна, как и ты = She’s just as clever as you
– Как раз когда он собрался уходить = Just as he was leaving
– Перед самым Рождеством = just before Christmas

Sources: Reverso and Reverso Context

English, Language, Russian, Words and phrases 2 Comments
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