Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Bo, Bis, Bit, Bimus, Bitis , Bunt!

My love of language started at the age of 11 when I joined "big school".  I thought there was something exotic about being able to speak different languages. Quickly I took to French, and to this day am not so bad at it. I can still recount the words to that famous French song " Moi j'ai soif, je voudrais un Orangina".

However as delightful as my French teacher was; it was when I discovered Latin that I thought how great it would be to be able to actually understand it. I was exceptionally good at it, but it was a slog trying to get it as an option. The principle at my school was you had to be a prodigy child, taking O level English when you were 15. I wasn't. I thought why defy nature, I took mine when I was 16. They used the same principle for religious studies, so initially was placed in a lower set. It became rapidly apparent what I didn't know about Jesus wasn't worth knowing so I was moved back to top set religious studies and was allowed to take O level Latin.

I am sure what you are thinking readers, is Latin is boring, a dead language, why bother? Well, it was all about my teacher. He was stark raving bonkers, and I loved him. (not in the way, quickly developed girls fancy their PE teacher). He was passionate about the language and Rome. He would make us stand on the desks and recite the verbs and he would tell stories of decadence, immorality, gluttony and violence. It was exciting! There was only 8 of us in the class, housed in a little brick building set away from the main school and all girls.
I used to gaze at him in awe as he bellowed "tempus fugit" at the end of lesson. Then the last day of term came when he said we could have a Latin orgy. I told you he was bonkers! What he meant was we could have one bottle of wine, some bread and grapes and tell stories of ancient Rome. However it all went horribly wrong when this was interpreted as a carte blanche allowance of alcohol drinking. So armed with pop bottles disguising the mix of gin, vodka and other spirits we embarked on the orgy. I don't think he noticed we were pissed because he was too busy telling gladiator stories.

However our PE teacher quickly noticed when we repeatedly fell off the trampoline in the next gym lesson. Summoned to his office, we giggled as we said we had been orgying. Somehow we managed to keep it a secret it had happened in Latin class, and I am glad we did. Our Latin teacher was too great to find himself investigated by the head. That was my last day of school, and its him I thank  of why I love language.

Living in Jersey has made me further my thirst to learn languages. possibly because I find myself in a peer group of linguists. There is a huge Portuguese community here. Near the hospital is this great Portuguese coffee shop where I torture the staff with my ridiculous attempt of speaking Portuguese. Its become like a party trick as for some reason I haven't understood the fact that speaking a language to someone that is not English does not mean they are deaf. Each time I speak I insist on doing actions much to the amusement of the staff.
I can only say 3 coffees, one weak, please, to takeaway but its a start.

I have found that if you make an effort to speak someones language it makes for a better relationship. This was tested out the day I went flying in the road and seriously cut all my knee. Sitting wimpering outside the coffee shop the same girl who sniggers each day I say "take away" with an accompanying thumb over my shoulder like I am hitch hiking, ran to my aid. She cleaned my knee, stroked my leg, smiled and gave me a glass of water. She possibly would of done that anyway, but I felt cared for, not just the nutter who does actions when asking for coffee.

I have had the honour of being involved in interviewing for interpreters for the language and interpretation service. Yes, I am aware it has nothing to do with resuscitation, but it interests me and promotes networking between departments, something which is much easily facilitated here rather than in a busy NHS teaching hospital.
Following those interviews, it spurred me on to know more, maybe if I stop doing actions I will actually look less like Shirley Valentine and more multicultural.

My Latin teacher was my John Keating, his unorthodox style carried me to adulthood and as Mr Keating taught his pupils on Carpe Diem, so did my Latin teacher.

So I say obrigada to those poor suffering Portuguese people who have their ears bleeding and their eyes boggling when I embark on ruining their language. To my Latin  teacher I say Bo, Bis, Bit, Bimus, Bitis , Bunt and crede quod habes, et habes (believe that you have it, and you do)

Golly I hope I remembered that correctly as the last time I  wrote a Latin quote, it was on the wall of my lounge. I  signed it by the author Corneilius. Then being all intellectual I was explaining it at a dinner party at my house. Someone remarked "isnt that the guy from planet of the apes?"...bollocks I thought, I meant Cicero.!

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