fatman Find the clues!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Learning the Language of James Bond Villains

'War is God's way of teaching Americans geography'
Ambrose Bierce

It also seems a terrific way for the Good Lord to teach various mortals the languages of the race of peoples trying to kill us at any given time. There seems to be no better teacher on our mud ball planet like Paranoia and many a fact can be learnt through sifting through garbage and following the movements of the various arch-villains that litter our world (hostile nations, parking inspectors, ex-wives and their lawyers). Currently Arabic, the Language of the Prophet, seems to be the thing to learn. Sounding like the cross between someone trying to cough up a foreign object lodged in their throat and the sound a handyman makes when he smashed his thumb with a hammer the passively xenophobic amongst us would claim that Arabic is the perfect tongue for declaring Jihads, commanding camels, haggling in Middle Eastern soukhs and making demands on a commercial airliner while you press the barrel of an uzi to the side of a co-pilot's head.

There was a time back in the 50's when Russians were thought to be the Klingons of the Modern world. Sure they'd been a useful ally during the recent set of misunderstandings that resulted in the deaths of 52,000,000 people give or take (known as the Second World War) but could they really be trusted? The language schools opened up one by one to train people to understand what the vodka-swilling heathens were saying so we could intercept their letters and blow up their missile silos.

How the West views Russians- drunk, bearded and smelly

Saturday morning I found myself in the CAE (Council of Adult Education) in the wrong classroom waiting to learn Russian. "Found myself" is a pretty accurate description as I'd had about four hours sleep and my brain wasn't properly functioning. I'd been a tad nasty to the cafe waitress ten minutes before (She:"How are you today?", Me:"It's 9:00 on a Saturday morning lady. How do you think I am?") and was not warming to the prospect of learning a whole new alphabet.

Another fifteen minutes later and we trudge off to the right classroom with our copies of Teach Yourself Russian that inexpiably has a guy in a scuba gear on the cover. The lesson begins with the teacher, Barbara, introducing herself and then asking the class why they'd sunk $330 bucks for the privilege of hauling their asses out of bed on a Saturday to learn a Barbarian tongue. A few of us (like Chris, Nick, a surfy-looking chick and myself) were off to see what Russia looks like, someone was marrying a Russian and wanted to know what kind of abuse her grandmother was yelling at him, a few of them had several languages under their belts and wanted another in their collection and some were doing it just for kicks. I love introductions- it's just like Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Cyrillic alphabet (named after St.Cyril the famous bantamweight boxer and celebrity chef) was a bit tricky to digest at 9:30 in the morning. Although a few of us had a fairly good understanding of it already having bought Teach Yourself Russian a week earlier (like Chris, who had already enough grasp of the Cyrillic alphabet to understand parts of the Moscow News) people like Nick and myself stared blankly at the board and tried to mouth the Russian verbs as they were written on the board. With fingers-on-a-chalkboard pronunciation we tried to sound out the ten Russian verbs- one that sounds a bit like the noise Jodie Foster makes in that film Nell and another that sounds like the noise an orang-outang makes. Damn Russians and their damn language!

Next Week: Fatman gets further behind in class and is asked to leave.

Not in a Hurry,


Blogger Forty_Two said...

The International Terrorist conspiracy is being administered from a tiny, almost unknown country called Andorra, which is situated in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. I'm not certain what their native tongue is, but they are secretly ruled by an alien race which has been quietly living among us in the form of the Amish of Pennsylvania.

And I don't know their language either.

12:05 pm  
Blogger Fatman said...

Well I don't know their language either but you can bet your bottom rouble that they'll enjoy their wine.

8:50 pm  

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