Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Role Models, Heros and How Many Ankle Biters Have You Got?

It's Madhouse this week and I haven't participated for a couple of weeks so here goes. Not really a hero, but perhaps a role model of sorts. I must admit that work and schedules have left me time poor so there's a tenuous link here:

I have no aptitude for languages. Seriously. Apparently as a 14 year old I showed some promise in French class for intonation and syntax tempered somewhat by my crush for Swiss teacher Mr Christie but due to my constant moving from one school to another and the bizarrely inconsistent curriculum interstate, I never pursued French as a language. I did once enter into an unwanted conversation with a french speaking Genevan because I asked for two strawberry ice creams in such perfect French that he thought I was a local. Big mistake, don't get it too perfect because the jig is soon up when they realise you can only speak essential phrases.

Language is a weird thing and I've been fortunate through the blog to meet people who speak, one, two, sometimes three or more languages. Ted from Buen Viaje is a Taiwanese American who's currently learning Spanish, Quickroute is an Irishman with an Argentinian wife, Ropi speaks English more perfectly than he realises and even corrects my grammar, Candie speaks Italian, French and English, Renee French and English, Gaye at least Turkish and English, Ces, well I'm not sure what Phillipino language but probably more than one, Ebony the sweetest little Finnish girl with a wonderful command of English (and I suspect other languages that she doesn't let on!) I'm sure there are many more who are bi-lingual without my being aware.

Nup, all I do is speak English . . Australian English . . far from perfect.

One thing I have learned though, is the difficulty of understanding your second language when colloquialisms appear. It's one thing to learn the grammatical nuances of a language but I have undying admiration for those who catch on to the colloquialisms . . .in fact young Ropi and I have the odd fall out over colloquialisms. We mistake each other for being critical when in fact we are joking . .it's so, so, easy to do. Now here's the tenuous link, not so much because this man speaks more than one language, he doesn't but he does speak a 'different' language to me and most of his workmates.

There's a guy at work . . . he has an astute limp due to cerebral palsy, which has affected his legs, his hips propel one leg in front of the other, but he manages and has an amazing if not a little 'blue' turn of phrase. He's rough, he's friendly, he calls a spade a fucking shovel. This is important because it affects the way people 'think' and interact with him. He might as well be a foreigner.

He's the sort of guy that my boss comes over and asks "Is he annoying you . .? " as if he has some intellectual disability or there's some communication difficulty or language barrier. I think after 40 years of living with his affliction, he's quite comfortable in taking liberties and knowing that nobody's going to challenge him.

I like Rick. He's one of the few who are friendly and speak to me each day and he's very funny. He tells me what he's cooked for lunch and the combinations are a little odd . .banana, ham and honey toasted sandwiches! Lost me at the Banana! He has an interest in horses but rather brutal and economic as it's purely from the racing scene and is a part owner in three would-be money-earners so it's not unusual for him to say . ."Helen, come and look at my filly . . look at the legs on this girl!" Of course, we're looking at the latest 2 year old hopeful for the Golden Slipper. He's unafraid to voice his opinion or to ask questions . .someting NOBODY has done in my four weeks of working there. . not one person has asked me what I'm doing.

As he bumps his wobbly and lop-sided way from his desk to the kitchen, he pops his head over my partition and passes gems that you'd think could only be heard on a weird website for Australianisms:

"So, you got ankle biters?"
"What does your old man do for a crust?"
"Time for me to rack off and get a banana"
"Sold a ripper of a block for a motzah just now"
"Bought a fillly the other day, one run and she's rooted"
"If you want us to buy your land, you'll have to come across"
"God the train fanged past me this morning and I missed it"
"Hooroo . .I was in early so now I'm on the bus"
"Scored the trifecta with that one!"
"Had a good bash on the weekend, how about you"
"Ok time to do a runner and get a sanger on the barbie"
"Get a gander at me gourmet sarnies . . ham . .cheese . .banana and honey!" (gag)
In a workplace of pleasant but largely uncharismatic people, he's very refreshing. Sweet, obnoxious and flirty . . he's regarded as 'old school' by the younglings but I rather like him.

If you have a clue what he's saying and English isn't your first language, I'd love to know what you make of this . . .if you don't, then walk a mile in the shoes of the millions of migrants who live here and have to understand conversations like this!

Don't worry my multilingual friends, you will get your revenge. I will travel and you will make total fun of me . .maybe I should develop a 'sympathy' limp!

And as for Rick. . .well when this assignment is over, I probably won't see him again but whilst he's not probably a role model, he's a little hero and definitely one of those people who makes an impression and I'll let him know before we part.


Brian Miller said...

ha. rick sounds like a character, and he tells it like it is which is always refreshing in business. hope you have a great day helen!

Rambling Rural Rector said...

He calls a spade an effing shovel!! I love that kind of person you know where you stand every time. Sounds like the kind of person we all need around the place. RRR

Kate said...

Oh he sounds wonderful - I love people like that - and his sandwiches - well it might be a taste sensation - so I might have to try it!!!

I am just starting my fifth year of Spanish and it is only now that I dare start to break away from the textbook stuff and have fun. I'm not always right but its a laugh trying!!!

nick said...

Obviously quite a character. He may talk funny but at least he's friendly and treats you as one of the gang. Parlo parecchio italiano ma non correntemente perché non ho mai abitato in Italia. (I speak quite a lot of Italian but not fluently because I've never lived in Italy)

Candie Bracci said...

Ha!I give you that one:french isn't an easy language to learn at all.Concerning that guy,why don't you ask him out?You've been calling for love remember?(the girl who don't forget anything),horoscope said it!LOL ;)

subtorp77 said...

Baino, living as I did in Europe, I came across all matter of languages. I "get" German and Brit humour, for two things and tend to use a lot of foreign words when I talk or write( Latin, French, Italian, German ). German is my second language but I also speak the Queen's English and that of the Colonies( meaning the U.S. ), a bit of Portugese, Spanish and dabbling in French and Russian )My former neighbour hails from Manchester, U.K. so it's fun to learn how she speaks. I pick up on the idioms pretty quick. Aussie English is still a bit of a sticky wicket but I can usually tell what you're on about...

As for Rick here, sounds like he's been raiding my fridge! But substitute the honey with peanut-butter, on that sandwich, wot? YUM!

Ronda Laveen said...

I like people like Rick. Not cookie cutter clones. There is something refreshing about people who can be authentic.

My nephew speaks English, earned a degreen in Spanish to teach English in Taiwan. While there he was learning Chinese. I do admire those who are multi-lingual.

Ropi said...

"Young Ropi" ... It is like I am the young Anakin from Star Wars. Well, I am planning to better my Spanish to intermediate level and after graduation I may learn Russian if I have enough will, time and power. I want to be at least intermediate at it. We will see how it ends up. However I still not fan of languages. There is no big difference in my style when I talk to you and to my classmates. I only do it on an other language. I shall say I am one-styled. I don't use slang. So you can imagine how I talk to my classmates because basicly I handle as a classmate, a parent, a friend, a foreigner, a teacher etc... There are only very slight changes when I talk to a teacher or an older person that I put sir or lady in my sentence and I am more formal. With classmates I am formal in a humourous way. It is hard to explain as you haven't met with me but there is no such a great difference in my speaking. I only corrected you when you had said "angry at" and NOT "angry with". I'm allergic to that. I always correct this mistake because everyone does that.

Ropi said...

I am also able to communicate in Spanish.

Marianna said...

Now that's my kind of post!! I love languages! And I love the Australian English-accent, too!

Here's a question on a phrase I heard recently by an Australian on TV: "He pays me out"...what does it mean? Like "tease someone?

Thanks for the Australianisms! Oh and I speak English and French (and Greek but that doesn't count cause I'm...well...Greek:)


laughingwolf said...

nazdarovja, rick!

get his phone number, baino, and invite him to some of your barbies!

but yeah, colloquialisms can lead to misunderstandings...

the brit term: 'knock me up in the morning', means 'get me pregnant', here in north america

ebony said...

Hahehe. I wish I knew how to speak French! And Spanish!! I just.. I'm not good with grammar. Sigh. Maybe I'm just too lazy. Now I need to pay for that...
On one Englishcourse we "studied" (=listened to the accent and learnt some funny phrases) Australian English. It was so cool!

What? Banana and meat?

Tom said...

Well, like you i speak only English, but i have no clue what this guy is going on about...Brits and Aussies talk a very different English than Yanks; love it!

ian said...


There's a lot of Cockney in his Australian and not much that wouldn't be comprehensible in Dublin.

PS. 'Knocked up' means pregnant in England as well

Cinnamon said...

Love Australian idioms, they are so witty! You should hear the Somerset idioms-

'maarp chaarp' (mop chop)= a haircut.

'Where's is to?'= 'Where is it?'

'Gert lush'= 'Very nice'

or how about:

Whirr be gwain to? Tiz getting dimpsey, zo cummin yer an wet thee's whistle. Yer, which o they jars is owern? Thicky ones yourn, inner? Dang I if there ain't a gurt big wapse innun.

Easier on the ear after a few cider brandies!

otin said...

I speak two languages, English and Southern, well, I don't speak southern, I just understand it! LOL!

The blogging diet, for me, is that every time I get the urge to snack, I instead, get online and comment on blogs, the time goes fast and the next thing you know, it's bed time! It works for me!

Mariana Soffer said...

you can develop what I call the tyranny of the mother tongue, it takes over every nook and cranny of your linguistic map space. And the only way to sort of learn a second language is true emersion which basically means going somewhere, not thinking if you're an English speaker, not even thinking in English but having constant conversations in French and the other language, so you can close it down. And I've spoken to many, many people who had many difficulties learning second languages who when they did true emersion all day long were amazed at how quickly they could pick up a language.

Cinnamon said...



Baino said...

Indeed he is Brian but not one I'd particularly like to 'socialise' with. You know these horse racing types!

Craig he isn't shy with expletives. Unusual in what is otherwise a very polite if not reserved workplace.

"Colourful Racing Identities" we call 'em here Kate! Good for you with the spanish. I'd have to be extracated to a foreign country where they speak no English in order to learn I'm afraid.

Ooh Italian! The language of lurrve

Erm I don't think so Candie. Not my type. I couldn't take him anywhere without the odd faux pas but I think he's flirting outrageously!

Subby I was born in Manchester! I didn't realise you spoke so many languages but then you're widely travelled so I'm not surprised. German humour? Now that's an oxymoron!

Me too Ronda. Chinese is pretty hard and there are many languages spoken in China. I live in a large Chinese community and it's amazing how well they manage with English in such a short time. Mind you many don't to well enough to pick up their former occupations because they don't pass the English requirements to do so. I once met a Chinese doctor who stacked chairs at a convention centre for a living because his English wasn't good enough to sit the Medical board exam.

Aww Ropi, you are my Anikin! Nah, I get your humour these days. It's what we would call 'dry' humour.

Marianna I forgot about you being multilingual too! Yep, if you 'pay' someone out, you give them a hard time.

Yep Knocked Up is pretty universal I think, so much so that there was a film of the same name.

Ebs, I agree, somethings just don'tgo together. Although we grill green bananas on the barbie sometimes.

Tom I'm guessing the yanks have their weird turns of phrase as well. I just don't see it much on the blogs. Maybe it's more the spoken word. You do so speak another language, I just have no idea what it is!

Ian that's true. Same with rhyming slang. A symptom of convict origins.

Haha Cinnamon . .there you go. Even the Brits are multi-lingual.

Oh Otin, I wish that would work for me. I just nibble at the PC . .not literally of course.

Hi Mariana! That's so true. I need to pick a country where English isn't spoken. Even in South America, my daughter found it hard to practice her Spanish because they begame impatient with her slowness and began speaking to her in English.

jay said...

I've met several people with cerebral palsie who are like Rick. I guess when you have a decent brain but your body won't do what you tell it, you develop a certain 'fuck you' attitude to life, and why not? Mostly they've been damn funny and entertaining too. Who am I to complain about how they get through the day?

Kath Lockett said...

Bless 'im!

When I worked for The Bulldog we had a Japanese scholar come over for a few months. The Bulldog ignored him completely and he was pretty grateful for the laughs and company he got from the rest of us, but he was very puzzled when I said, "Don't do that, Bulldog will tell you off."

"Tell me OFF?"

Megan said...

I'd love to learn another language. But which one?!?

River said...

Rick sounds like a great workmate and I wish the workplaces had more of this type of person. Everything and everyone these days is too politically correct and sanitised in order not to offend those few "someones", we probably all know a few of those.
I speak only Australian English too, and I remember helping migrants from other countries to understand us. Working in shoe factories I was, in the first one I helped two Polish women (one had lived in Aus for about 20 years)and one from Portugal, in the next factory a few years later, I helped a girl from Papua New Guinea, she was over here with her husband and son and studying English at night, I helped with her homework and also sorted out her difficulties with our slang terms.