Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Photo found here.

Bonjour mes amis!     Sveiki mano draugai!     Hola mi amigos!     Hello my friends!

If you know me well, you know I’m a lover of language. Of grammar. Of spelling. Of being correct. (And yes, I am fully aware of the fact that I don’t always write in complete sentences. And yes, I’m aware that if I were following all the rules of my native language, I wouldn't be starting a sentence with the word and.)

Along with loving the English language and all its rules and exceptions, I’m a lover of foreign languages. I love learning a bit of a new language each time I've traveled to a new country. This definitely comes in handy when trying to ask where the closest internet cafe is or when buying a bus ticket.

Lithuanian is the only language, aside from English, which I speak fluently. Oh, how I love Lithuanian grammar. Everything makes sense and there are very few exceptions. Nevermind that each noun in the language can be declined (meaning the suffix changes and therefore the meaning of the word changes) in six or seven different ways (cases) depending on its function in the sentence. Then there are five different declensions or sets of endings appropriate depending on the spelling of the original word in the nominative form. This means that a masculine word ending in -as declines differently than a masculine word ending in -is or -us. Or a feminine word ending in -a will decline differently than a feminine word ending in -e. Too confusing? It's really not, once you get the hang of it.

Take for example the Lithuanian word for world - pasaulis.You may see it in the following cases within a sentence depending on its function or meaning:
Nominative: pasaulis -the world (subject)
Genetive: pasaulio - of the world or the world's
Dative: pasauliui - to/for the world
Accusative: pasaulį - the world (object)
Instrumental: pasauliu - by the means of the world
Locative: pasaulyje - in the world
Vocative: pasauli - used when addressing the world, as in: "Hey world! Are you listening?"
So if you wanted to say, "He has the whole world in his hands," it would look like this:
Jis turi visą pasaulį savo rankose.
Or if you would rather say, "There are many hands in the world," it would look like this:
Yra daug rankų pasaulyje.
You can see that both the word hands (rankos) and world (pasaulis) changed suffixes based on their function in the sentence. What I didn't note is that one could also easily change the order of the words in the sentence and it would carry the same meaning because the word endings are indicative of the meaning.

I suppose it is rather complex and can be incredibly confusing to an English speaker, but once you learn all the grammar principles, it actually makes complete sense and helped me to understand English better. As Wikipedia states, "Lithuanian declension is quite sophisticated in a way similar to declensions in ancient Indo-European languages such as Sanskrit, Latin or Ancient Greek. It also is one of the most complicated declension systems among modern Indo-European and modern European languages."

Aside from Lithuanian, which surprisingly to many is an Indo-European language, though in ways more like a Slavic language, I used to be able to have a meaningful conversation in Russian. Now it’s mostly just numbers, “I don’t really speak Russian”, and the LDS sacrament prayers that roll around in my brain. And then there are the random French phrases that I memorized in middle school and high school. I even translated for a French girl who came to church one Sunday. Yeah, that was interesting. What else? Need someone to count to ten for you? I can do it in nearly 10 languages!

And of course there is my Spanish. I am skilled. In fact, I’ve had successful Spanglish conversations numerous times. One particular phrase came in handy at a very desperate time:
Solamente quiero ser amigos.
That, my friends, is a good phrase to memorize. (Go ahead copy and paste into Google Translate.) Maybe even more handy than: Donde esta el bano?

On a more serious note, for the past couple of years, I’ve been thinking about how I really should learn Spanish. It just makes sense. So many opportunities to connect with people have been missed because I don’t speak Spanish. And it’s a beautiful language. I mean, who doesn’t like rolling their R’s just for fun? Why not put that skill to good use?

Then about a month ago, my goal to learn Spanish became all the more relevant to me. I mean the importance of the need to learn it became evermore clear, when I received my voter registration card in the mail, detailing my polling information and redistricting of our political boundaries in the area. Right off the bat, it read:

Due to the new census data, Salt Lake County is now required to provide election information in both English and Spanish in accordance with the 1975 federal law, Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.

Debido a los datos del Nuevo censo, el Condado de Salt Lake está obligado a proporcionar información sobre las elecciones en Inglés y Español, de acuerdo con la ley federal de 1975, Sección 203 de la Ley de Derechos Electorales.

And there you have it. It was as simple and quick as that. Spanish is officially on my to-do list.

1 comment:

Stella said...

Lithuanian grammar sounds similar to Romanian! In Romanian there are all those different cases, but it's a combination of latin-based grammar (like adding in a special pronoun to denote accusative instead of declining) and slavic-based (declining the words for genitive and dative, etc.)

p.s. It's been way too long since I've seen you or anyone in your family!