Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rosetta Stone

This is a picture of the Rosetta Stone, that ancient stone that provided the key to unlocking the mysteries of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, now housed in the British Museum in London (where I surreptiously reached out and touched it years ago---its behind glass now probably because of curious hands like mine).

The key to deciphering this famous stone was that its text was the same passage written out three times in different languages. And once you know how to read the classical Greek and the Demotic Egyptian bits, understanding the once-indecipherable hieroglphics come easy. If, you know, you're a scholar of ancient languages and you are good at sticking with this sort of thing.

Me, I've spent the past weekend trying to decipher my own kind of Rosetta Stone. The computer software version of Italian Levels I and II.

I'd heard it was a very good program to learn languages because it follows a sort of immersion process, the same way a child would learn a language. It doesn't translate the vocabulary for you, it doesn't provide a list of grammar rules to follow, it just assumes you are reasonably attentive and can figure out what's going on in the little pictures.

It's FANTASTIC! It's addictive in that 'I'm-playing -a-video-game-and-must reach-the-next-level' sort of way. I wish, I wish, I wish I'd had this before travelling to Italy.

So, anyway, a few of my friends and I were recently talking about goal-setting, and what really happens if you are serious about doing something. But what goal to set? That is the question. Because these things take time and energy.

But here's a worthwhile goal: learn a second language. Maybe Italian because it's a beautiful language. Maybe French, because after all I'm supposed to know it already....I'm tired of being one of those Canadians who took French in school but is too embarrassed to speak the few phrases she knows when faced with an actual French-speaking person. (My poor French friend Edith did her best but I distinctly remember freezing up when introduced to her mom who only spoke French.

Yes, I can forsee acquiring the French version of the Rosetta Stone sometime soon....

And best of all, I recently read an article that has really encouraged me to try harder: it explained that it's a myth that adults are not able to learn a second language as well a child can. It's a rather discouraging belief for grown-ups who feel like trying after all.

Children do pick up new words and language quickly of course, but adults have the advantages of learning context and grasping grammar faster. The barrier to adults learning languages is mainly the embarrassment of making mistakes, not an innate inability past a certain age.

It's a relief, right? As long as I don't mind talking funny, I can do this thing. In theory.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our Italy Trip Photo Album

Hi everybody,

Jeff's been working on uploading some of our photos from last year's trip to Italy. If you're interested, have a look. (A co-worker of mine just returned from Italy this week and now she's got me missing it all over again):

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


See this grey beastie here?

He's pushing twenty years old and still thinks he can take on the neighbourhood.

That's partly why he's an indoor kitty. Other reasons include him being deaf as a post, and as we live on a busy street, and as he has a brain the size of a walnut (love him, but it's true) that could be a dangerous combination.

But we still leave the upstairs balcony door open much of the year day and night so that him and Colby can wander out and enjoy the sunshine/fresh air/watch the birds and bats flying by. (And so Jeff and me don't swelter on these freakin' hot summer nights.)

Anyway, the other night about three in the morning, there was a blood-curdling yowl and my grey beast either leapt or fell off the balcony in pursuit of Louie, the mostly mild-mannered orange tabby that lives a few doors down.

(Louie has been in the habit of visiting our second story patio to check out the air up there lately. How does he jump up? We just don't know. He's quite portly. It's quite a jump. I'm guessing he levitates. Seriously. I briefly considered the possibility. )
Anyway, the other night it was Lestat's turn to initiate things. Well, at the very least he was nowhere in the house or on the balcony, so we figured that was the most likely explanation.

Jeff and I spent a long while searching the neighbourhood by flashlight, but he was just gone .
Aargh. Nothing like being woken up like that. There was nothing for us to do but go back to bed and hope he'd return. I was really worried he'd hurt himself.
About a week ago, there was a cat funeral in the family (my mother-in-law's cat Taylor) and I've been commissioned to select and paint the grave marker. I was dearly hoping I wouldn't have to worry about more cat-related funeral items.
Well, the suspese ended the next morning when I heard piteous mewing sound coming from outside. There he was,making a beeline for the front door and his breakfast bowl.

He's fine. Not a mark or a limp. (Well, he always walks a bit stiffly because twenty years old is like being George Burns in cat years.)
Okay, cat, no more making me worry!