vinceconaway: (Default)
It´s interesting and revealing to notice things that I screw up in languages that aren't my mother tongue. A lot of things that give me trouble in Spanish come from my muddy thinking in English. Times of day throw me, for example, but when I say ¨good evening¨ before noon it has a different connotation: in English I look distracted or ditzy, in Spanish I just seem ignorant.

Another such example is when to say ¨please¨ and ¨thank you¨. ¨Would you like some coffee?" "Yes, thank you" is often how I would respond, and it's wrong in Spanish. Arguable, it's wrong in English too, and this is where things get revealing. I hear "please and thank you" a lot as a shorthand, and it's always been somewhat irksome for me since it cuts short what could be vital social lubrication through polite manners. Still, it illustrates a larger point that we, as a culture, have lost touch with some very basic manners.

Thankfully, I'm getting an ever-clearer picture on how to change this in my own habits as I embarrass myself on other stages.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm having an interning time, operating in my third language. I'm doing pretty OK, and it's starting to feel more natural as I continue, but there are still holdups. For one thing, Italian is a huge help until it isn't. There are a few simple rules to remember and I can often convincingly fake a word using its Italian equivalent. When that doesn't work, though, it really doesn't work, and what I find most frustrating is when a noun changes gender. It's not hard for me to remember that "orecchio" becomes "orejo", except that it's actually "oreja". Drives me up the wall.

The differences are interesting in other ways, as well. Spanish has a multitude of ways to call something attractive, where Italian gets a lot of mileage out of "bella". With "bonita, linda, hermosa", Spanish has a lot of ground covered. And their word for musical tuning gives me great pleasure, "afinar", "to make fine" (as in fine art). Italians are differently poetic, saying "acordare", "to make agree".

To sum up, I'm really enjoying pushing my limits when it comes to language. I'm learning a lot in a short time, and it's really intense. ¡Salud!

On Names

Nov. 14th, 2016 03:19 pm
vinceconaway: (Default)
Identity is a tricky beast. One of the most fun topics I studied in grad school was the development of group identities, and it's still one of my favourite concepts to read up on. And, of course, there's no purer expression of the conundrum of identity than a name.

I go by a few names, these days. For many years I was exclusively "Vince", militantly even. As a child, I was offended by my grandfather's insistence in calling me "Vincenzo". As an adult I came to embrace "Vincenzo", using it as my SCA monicker as well as during my travels in Italy. In the SCA I wanted a "persona" (character) name that I would remember was me when shouted across a field, and in Italian "Vince" is actually a word ("he wins"). So Vincenzo was the obvious solution in both cases.

Except that Vincenzo was more problematic than it felt. After a few tours in Italy I stopped using it: I had an answer when I'd be asked (pale ginger that I am), "but what is your *real* name", but it took too long to explain my family history. Also, I started traveling in South America, where Vincenzo was a less elegant solution to the "he wins" word problem and where I had no emotional connection to "Vicente". And so I began, for the first time in my life, to embrace "Vincent".

I'm getting to know "Vincent" and growing to like him. It's no different a process than any other name I've adopted, and Mr Van Gogh has done a beautiful job in paving the way. It's easier to make a reservation, in any language, for example, and he feels a little more grown up. I'm still fond of "Vince", which is very much my default, but it's an interesting expansion as I embrace further possibilities entering my forties.

But "Vinnie" is right out.
vinceconaway: (Default)
"You've traveled enough to lose your Ohio accent"

I never really believed my cousin (there's an Ohio accent?) until I talked to my friend Chiara, who left her native Genoa to live in France and California then came home to distrust because she no longer sounded like a local. There are several affectations I've embraced (I'm sorry, Canadian spelling just looks better), and others that have snuck in on their own.

I'm rather proud of and pleased with the process. I don't dress like an Italian, but I dress like an American who spends a lot of time in Italy (which apparently looks German). I don't mold myself to my surroundings, but instead become something new from absorbing their influences.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
My airbnb host has this poster in my room, and I was intrigued by its mix of Italian and spanish forms. I guessed that it was Catalan and googled the theatre, which turns out to be in Barcelona. Linguistics win!

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
Fernweh: German, literally "farsickness" or "longing for far-off places", as contrasted with Heimweh (“homesickness, longing for home”)

Source: Wiktionary

I love this word, and it perfectly describes how I often feel. Italy is not my home, Croatia is not my home, and Boston is not my home, but I'm craving all three. Italy I'll visit next spring, Boston next week, and Croatia maybe 2016, but the desire is very much present for all three.

As well as dozens of other specific places, whether I've yet visited or not. Still, the urge to wander is rarely present in my life because first I'd need to stop...
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
We were sitting in Texas, my cousin and I, he Pennsylvania born and I from Ohio en route to everywhere. "You've finally lost your Midwestern accent", he said, to my baffled agreement.

Maybe it was my vocal flexibility and a month in Louisiana, or maybe he's crazy (Ohio doesn't have an accent, I still insist), but there are admittedly quite a few quirks I've picked up in my travels. Some are accidental, and some are affectations, but they add up quickly.

The first was probably "no worries", and I got that before I ever left the country or met the phrase's many Australian practitioners. I merely dated someone who had previously dated an Ozzie and voila, phonemic transmission.

I can claim all my time in Canada for other quirks. Starting with the Ontario renaissance festival in 1999 and continuing for much of my social life today (wassail Ealdormere!), I say "sorry" like a Canadian, and although "aboot" is a myth, I've managed to preserve my pronunciation if that 'o'. I also say "adult" as a Canuck: emphasis on a shorter a, though "pasta" (the first syllable a homophone of "past") still offends my sensibilities.

More broadly, I've taken other things from Europe and Canada. I use Celsius interchangeably with Fahrenheit, especially in all the weather apps on my phone (and, as an outdoor performer, I have many). I've adopted 24-hour time, though that dates back to my first cell phone and various am/pm alarm difficulties. And I write dates logically, dd/mm/yy and 23 January.

Travel has made me who I am in very many ways, but sometimes it's the little ones that stick out most.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

I'm geek enough to be thrilled to have spoken four languages today, even if one was mostly the phrase "Je ne parle pas français" (to be fair, I'd preceded that with the French name of the dulcimer, which began a conversation I couldn't handle)


Jun. 23rd, 2014 04:51 pm
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

In 2007 I was a beginning Italian speaker, and I was in the Tuscan city of Lucca when I was gently corrected that "mi piace molto" should be "mi piace bene": "I like it a lot" is literally "I like it well". Cool, thanks for the tip. Three days later, in Viareggio (also in Tuscany), I said "mi piace bene" and was corrected "mi piace molto".

That taught me a lot about Italian.

Years later, in 2012, I finally figured out why Venezia is pronounced with the z like "pizza": when I asked there about breakfast, "colazione", a word I've used hundreds of times, my pronunciation of the z was corrected.

Thanks, Venetian. Got it.

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

Why am I joining the Alumni Association, 14 years after getting my degree? Football tickets were never a lure, but JSTOR access and library privileges sold me.

It was an interesting experience: the way to become an OSU sustaining alumnus is to contribute $75 or more to various and numerous funds. I remember spending time in the guidance counselors' office, poring over binders of scholarships as an applicant, and last night I was looking over the same list to make a contribution.

My money will help send a language student to Europe!

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

I find it fascinating that both Italian and spanish are conversationally evolving into simpler forms. They're doing similar things, but to different parts of speech.

Italian is simplifying the past, using past perfect instead of the preterit. They very rarely use the construction "I saw", instead saying "I have seen". The Spanish do something similar, but with the future. Rather than "I will see" they say "I'm going to see".

The advantage in both cases is a dramatically simpler conjugation that also eliminates a lot of irregular verbs. As I said, fascinating.

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

Learning a language by immersion feels a lot like the montage in 13th Warrior, a gradual process of dawning comprehension. Speaking is different, however: I start out needing to construct a sentence in my head before speaking. Conversational fluency for me is when I can dive into a conversation and trust that the words will be there when I need them, and I'm starting to make the transition.

Last night I felt comfortable in the language for the first time. If my experience with Italian is any guide this will come and go, but it's really nice to get the first glimmer.

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

English is the only language I know where luck, used as a noun, needs to be specified as good or bad. All the others acknowledge bad luck, but the term "luck" itself is assumed to be the good variety unless specified otherwise.

I have no idea what this might mean, nor do I have a pithy cultural comparison to make using this as the lede. Just an observation that made me go "hmmm".

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

There's a lot invested in what a person is called, a lot of meaning wrapped up in a name. A friend of mine, going through a bitter divorce, was filling out paperwork to rechange her name and decided to make up an entirely new one. Another friend, facing the competitive marketplace of New York City actors, goes professionally by the nickname her father picked up from Russian houseguests in her childhood (and which also suits her very German surname). A third goes solely by her last name, because it stands out as much as the brash personality it describes, and a fourth uses an abbreviation she adopted at age 11.

No matter whether someone embraces the name they're given or chooses another, there is a very conscious creation of identify in the way we introduce ourselves to the world. Further, as we continue using a name, it becomes invested with a reputation beyond our control as a shorthand for whatever it is that we make of ourselves.

From a very small age, learning to read, I was delighted that my name began with "V", a rare and magical letter. I hated Vincenzo, though, called thus by my mother's side of the family. It's ironic that I've embraced it so much that it's now a fundamental part of who I am and the monicker I use in my biggest hobby, the SCA.

I think, when I'm in Argentina, I'll stay Vincenzo. I've never cared for Vicente, and I'm not in the market for a new identity: I quite like the one I've built.


Oct. 10th, 2013 11:53 am
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

Over the years I've developed a shorthand for various recurring experiences, usually named for a city. An Asti, for example, is when foot traffic is sparse but I can match the mood of the street well enough that the audience, though small, is generous enough to compensate.

Then there's the Bologna, a city known for its miles upon miles of medieval porticos and covered colonnaded walkways. I used one such as a back up during a rainstorm and discovered that, even though the audience is dry, the mood is suppressed by the weather and they aren't likely to be giving.

And today I had a Lucca. I don't have a word for there being another dulcimer player around since it's not uncommon either at faires or while busking, but in Lucca there was another salterista just down the street.

And I did fine.

Which was very encouraging this morning, when a cimbolom player was set up two blocks away and with similar results as before. At least until the rain started, but I have high hopes for the weekend!


Oct. 8th, 2013 08:51 am
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

I was too lazy to redesign my website as a Wordpress page and now a lot of Wordpress sites are having massive downtime from security issues. I was too lazy to create a separate fan page on Facebook, using just a very open personal page, and now those fan pages are being made to pay for full access to their fans.

Is it too late to claim forethought on my laziness?

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

I love Europeans.

A woman boarded the train, asking "Milano?" to confirm she was on the right train. Then she asked if the seat was free, and four of us spent several minutes negotiating our multilingual experience.

"Ist frei?"
"Scusi? Oh, si"

And then the game was on. It turns out she was Romanian (thankfully "du bist Deutsch?" is in my small repertoire of German; the Italian travelers had even less). One of my compatriots spoke French, so they were able to communicate. And that three minute exchange made my day.

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

I have a passion for linguistics and take great pleasure in broadening my mind acquiring languages. I'm thrilled to see connections between languages (a lot of differences between Italian and Spanish became clear in studying Greek) and take joy in rooting out traces of the Indo-European mother tongue (there's a reason miel and mead are similar).

All this said, I have a favorite word. It's in Spanish, but not natively: ojalá.

In school it was translated as "I hope" but makes no sense in its grammatical structure. No wonder: it's a devolution of Arabic inshallah, "God willing". Eight centuries of Moorish rule rubbed off on the locals.

As a performer I have a superstitious streak and I hesitate to take anything for granted. Ojalá is a wonderful way to sum up that attitude, without overt religious content or colonialist appropriation. Count me in!

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.


Feb. 21st, 2012 08:23 am
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
I was six, and my parents were looking to adopt two little girls from El Salvador. In preparation they sent me to a Spanish class for children, which laid a groundwork for the rest of my life. 

As a high school freshman I went to my school's awards ceremony. I got my measly single thing, watching upper classmen walk away with mountains of accolades (three years later I'd get my turn). One award, though, caught my attention. 

Kelly Zan, a graduating friend of mine, had taken every language course the school offered. This was unprecedented, and the school had to invent an award to acknowledge her. Latin, Russian, French, and Spanish, as many years in each (2-3) as were offered. I still don't know where she found the time, and I was deeply impressed. 

A few years later I attended a great aunt's funeral, and acted as translator between her sister and my mom; living in an ethnic neighborhood as a stay at home mother, this aunt had never needed more than her native Italian and Spanish. I also met the latest generation, a four year old equally proficient in both as well as English. 

I decided "trilingual" was a pretty badass word. 

As an adult I decided to learn Italian, and there were several failed attempts before I started living in Italy each spring. Unfortunately it cannibalized my Spanish in the process, replacing one for the other. 

Deciding I couldn't retain both Spanish and Italian simultaneously, I set a goal of trilingualism that did not include Spanish. I worked a bit on Croatian, but didn't spend enough time in Croatia (or Serbia, Montenegro, or Bosnia) to progress very far. I wanted German, but every German and Austrian I met spoke perfect English. 

I made decent progress in Greek, however. I got to where I could book a room, discuss the dulcimer, and sell a cd. As I got further along I tweaked my goal upward to pursue five languages, especially since I'd gotten strong enough in Italian that I could separate it from Spanish with some effort. 

Then the Greek economy collapsed, and I saw that it might be awhile before I go back to pick it up again. So I'm back on Croatian, since I'm planning to spend at least a few weeks there this spring. 

And my sporadic progress staggers on.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
My feet are ready to mutiny, I should have known better than to break in shoes on a vacation. They seemed ok through New Orleans, but I'm really glad I thought to bring moleskin. 

Yesterday I wandered around the centro and today I'm meandering through the Palermo suburb. It's not a little Italy, per se, but a generally international district. Lots of ethnic food, and I'll be sure to come back when steak loses its charm, unlikely as that seems. 

My Spanish is coming along nicely, and when I fake a word using Italian my point seems to come across. It helps that argentine Spanish is heavily influenced by Italian; in Barcelona I noticed my accent but here it blends in. 

It's been raining off and on since I got here, but is supposed to clear up tomorrow and for most of my visit. Quite a joy to wander, though, especially since it's a warm summer rain. The best part of switching hemispheres, though, is a second chance for fresh peaches and cherries. 

August 2017

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