Each week I receive as homework a set of sentences to render in czech, each carefully designed to stretch my abilities with the language without breaking it. In the past three weeks the scope of these sentences has taken a gratifying and very enjoyable step forward. I will see a sentence, something that would seem quite ordinary, but it represents a whole new range of things I’m able to say. Heady times.
Last week one of my sentences was, “In the middle of my room, there is a chair.” This one really didn’t push any new grammar boundaries, but it was nearly the last sentence of my homework that I did. It seemed like a good opening sentence for a story. There’s a lot packed into that sentence, the narrator’s only room has a chair, seemingly alone, in the middle. It raises lots of questions. It was only the because my lesson was in two hours that I managed to keep on the homework. Homework completed, lesson survived, and a Czech movie with my teacher viewed, I was ready to sprint for the keyboard.
Which is a bit of a pity, because Iveta left the question, “so, what are you doing now?” out there, and I answered with “I’m going to go sit by myself and work.” It’s probably a good rule of thumb, as a single guy, that when a pretty girl asks me something like that, I should keep other answers handy.
Anyway, that sentence was pretty much all I could think about. The chair is in the middle, which puts everything else, narrator included, at the edges. What happened to give the chair such importance? The story’s not finished yet (it’s another of the ‘difficult’ style), but so far so good.
On another homework-related note, for the past two weeks I’ve been assigned to writer a few sentences about my day. The idea was for me to write sentences like, “Yesterday morning I got up at six,” simple uses of the past tense and handy day-to-day vocabulary. I have been unable to perform this seemingly simple exercise. My failure stems from my complete inability to write about something as boring as my life, and all in short sentences, to boot. My first attempt started “Alas, my life is not very interesting, but I did do a couple of things this week.” I managed that sentence all right, and the bit about posting a new version of Jer’s Novel Writer was all right except that “post” (in the sense of upload) and “download” were nowhere to be found in my prehistoric references. After that, I tried to tell about a story I had written, and I got deep into things I didn’t even know I didn’t know how to do.
This week I did a little better, telling the story about trying to tell a joke in czech. A little better, but not much. This week I’m on notice. I’m to write simple sentences that apply what I’ve learned, and grit my teeth and ignore cadence, flow, and expressing relationships in complex ways. In other words: No rambling. Do you know how hard that is?
On another side note, Iveta is picking up a very bad habit of saying things in Czech and expecting me to reply in the same language. The gap between my written and spoken comprehension is vast. It takes me quite a bit of work to separate the words and more often that not some word or cluster completely defies my parsing abilities. I’m considering hooking the TV back up, just so I can practice listening.