ce Type

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Csak Fanta narancs szeretnék

My favorite pastime in Hungary was the challenge of pronouncing words. Fagylalt, gyógyfürdő, diófélék, könyv, Keszthely, üllői, Pozony, biztosáras. Reading words aloud, often sounding them out several times in a row, was a satisfying way to get a acquainted with a language that has been described as one comprising “essentially all counterintuitive consonant pairings.”

Hungarian has a 40-letter alphabet and all words have a stress on the first syllable. I remember about 12 years ago, when I was introduced to a friend of a friend, visiting Maryland from Hungary, Dénes. For the life of me, I couldn’t pronounce his name correctly, which was a great source of embarrassment. It’s as if there were a bug in my makeup as a native speaker of English, a wonderful mutt of a language, with a rather complex set of rules to guide the correct pronunciation of words (excellent overview of what I mean by that here), that made it impossible for me to do something so simple as to put the stress on the first syllable. I was guided repeatedly to say DAY-nesh, but it always came out day-NESH.

Particularly fascinating about Hungarian are not necessarily the “counterintuitive consonant pairings,” but rather the alphabet’s 14 vowels (a, á, e, é, i, í, o, ó, ö, ő, u, ú, ü, ű). In Spanish, two diacritic marks, the acute accent (´) and umlaut (¨), appear over vowels. The acute accent mainly serves as a guide to pronunciation (indicating which syllable should be stressed) and a way to differentiate between different parts of speech. (The umlaut only serves to guide pronunciation.) However, in Hungarian each vowel is a separate letter and as such has the same authority as any other letter: to change the meaning of a word.

Before going to Hungary I created some flashcards in an effort to lay a thin foundation of a few potentially useful words and phrases. A few phrases were straightforward (nagyon finom volt [that was delicious]; töltött paprika kérek [I’d like the stuffed pepper]) and not such tongue-twisters. And there were phrases I thought would be pretty important to remember, for example, “nice to meet you,” which my phrasebook indicated was örülök hogy megismertelek. Thankfully, when I was in Hungary I did have native speakers to tell me which phrases were correct, but not normal to say in conversation.

When studying Hungarian grammar before my trip, I read about long and short consonants, and about how szeretem means “I love him/her” but szerettem means “I loved him/her”; t and tt represent short and long consonants, respectively, and it’s important to pronounce them correctly, and in this case it’s important for the tense of the verb. Although there are these types of nuances in every language, I was still impressed. So, it would only be natural for me to find out, upon showing my flashcard reading örülök hogy megismertelek, that pronunciation is crucial, as örülök and őrülök are two totally different words, thanks to ö and ő being different letters. They are both eu sounds, one short (ö) and one long (ő), but thankfully I didn’t find out the hard way that örülök means “I’m glad” and őrülök means “I’m mad” (i.e., crazy).


További paprika kérjük

When I think of the Hungarian language, I think of the word paprika. More specifically, I think of its pronunciation in Hungarian. As a kid, I couldn’t get around the spelling or pronunciation of paprikaEnglish’s nonstandardized vowel sounds and the prevalent use of the schwa (the uh sound) mean that puh ‘pree kuh pah ‘preek uh isn’t the most melodious word you’ll hear said.

The word paprika is borrowed from Hungarian (and German). One of my oldest friends is Hungarian, and in spending time with him and his family it is mentioned a lot, as it is central to Hungarian cuisine. I also was struck by the pronunciation in Hungarian—think of the a sound in jaw or awl, and put the emphasis at the beginning of the word (instead of the second syllable as in English)—‘pap ri ka.

I’m going to Budapest this summer, and I’m eager to learn as much Hungarian as I can. I know some phrases and words, and I once made Hungarian–English flash cards in college to learn some more (word retention = 0%). I’ve always wanted to learn a non-Romance language, and have been previously interested in Swedish (thanks, Ingmar Bergman films) and Icelandic (thanks, Sigur Rós), but for a variety of reasons (all logical) I never followed through. Visiting Hungary is the perfect occasion to better acquaint myself with Hungarian.

Hungarian (or Magyar) is a non–Indo-European language, which means that it’s not related to any other European languages (special exceptions for Finnish and Estonian). Finnish and Hungarian are Uralic languages, and  because they are so different from well-known Western languages they are often mentioned together. How much Hungarian and Finnish share in terms of grammar, words, spelling, and so on has long been a controversial topic. What it means to be in the same language family is different for different people, and some assume that Hungarians and Finns should be able to understand each other. There’s a great essay on the topic from 1935, written by a Hungarian linguist by the name of Gyula Weöres, who clarifies that Finnish and Hungarian are related just as English is to other Germanic languages—they share distant roots, but it’s not as if speakers of English and German can really carry on a conversation. I found an interesting graphic of a Uralic language tree, which shows that the two languages are really quite far apart: the supposed closest relatives to Hungarian, Khanty and Mansi, spoken in Siberia, are threatened by extinction (Russian census data claims that there were only ~13,600 and ~2,700 speakers of Khanty and Mansi in 2002, respectively).

Hungarian is an inflected language, which means that it has cases. A case is a rule that dictates the spelling of a noun, adjective, or pronoun based on how it is used in a sentence. One goal I have is to better understand cases; English and Spanish, the two languages I know best, do not have cases. (Of note, Lindley Murray in the 19th century claimed that English grammar employs a case system dissimilar to that of Greek and Latin.) However, many languages do have cases: Greek and German have four, Latin has seven, Finnish has ~15, and Hungarian has ~18.

By having up to 18 different cases, paprika may appear in any one of the following forms based on its use in a sentence:

The depth of Hungarian grammar and language is fascinating—to think, that paprika is so many other words and yet the same word all at once.

The Story of French

I’ve just started reading The Story of French by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow, and it is a fantastic book. Although I’m constantly reminded of reading Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue in St. Andrews, Scotland, in the winter of 2006 and having my mind blown repeatedly.

I’m a sucker for interesting facts about language and how it changes over time, which leads me to include the following excerpt from The Story of French regarding the evolution of Anglo-Norman and subsequent formation of French, and its effect on the English language.

. . . The English language is an excellent laboratory for examining the different trends that were at work in the formation of French. For the word château, the Norman variant castel produced castle, whereas the Paris variant chastel produced chastelain and châtelaine. There are many other examples; for example, chasser (to hunt), which was pronounced chacier around Paris, but cachier in Normandy, produced chase and catch. Real, royal and regal meant the same thing in Norman, Françoys and Latin respectively, but English took them on and gave them each different meanings. The term real estate comes from two Anglo-Norman terms. Leal, loyal and legal followed the same pattern, although leal (meaning both “loyal” and “legal”) has fallen out of use. Warranty and guarantee are the same word, pronounced with a Norman and a Françoys accent respectively; this difference in pronunciation also explains how Guillaume became William, guerre became war and Gaul became Walloon (p. 33).

What struck me most at first was the weight of the last sentence. I always knew that Guillaume was the French version of William, but I had never realized that in Anglo-Norman and the subsequent early incarnations of the modern French language, the pronunciation of g and w was the same, thereby drawing a relationship between guarantee and warranty that I never knew existed. It’s also notable that guarantee and warranty are essentially the same word, though spelled differently. English is marvelous and fascinating to me because it can get away with making so many of the same sounds look different when written, such as the uar and arr, -ty and –tee of guarantee and warranty, respectively.


The Danske Tekster, part two

After writing my last post featuring the text in Dansk to be translated, I found that Danish: An Elementary Grammar Reader is available on Google Books. I hope nobody cheated.

Here’s the original text followed by the translation.

Nu vil vi begynde. Vi vil lære dansk. Mange danske ord er i familie med (‘med’, with) engelske ord.

Vi er i et rum i et hus i England. her er en dør, og (‘og’, and) der er to vinduer. Vi kan se ud i en park, hvor der er mange børn. Solen skinner; det er en varm dag. Det er mandag den første september. I parken sidder en ung mand på (‘på’, on) en bænk og drømmer. På hans knæ er en åben bog. Et lille barn går i det grønne græs. Det lille barn har en ny spade i hånden; barnet vil grave et dybt hul. I et bed, hvor der er friske røde og hvide roser, går en høne og en tam ravn. En stork flyver over græsset. På græsset står en fed mand med en rød næse; han sægler iskrem. Alle børnene bil have is. Det er en varm eftersommerdag.

Now will we begin. We will learn Danish. Many Danish words are in family with (i.e. are related to) English words.

We are in a room in a house in England. Here is a door, and there are two windows. We can see out in (i.e. into) a park, where there are many children (cf. Scotch ‘bairn’). The sun (cf. Latin and French and the English word solstice) shines; it is a warm day. It is Monday and the first (of) September. In the park sits a young man on a bench and dreams. On his knees is an open book. A little child goes (i.e. is walking) in the green grass. the little child has a new spade in the hand (i.e. in his hand); the child will (i.e. wants to) dig (cf. the English noun grave) a deep hole. In a bed (i.e. flower-bed), where there are fresh red and white roses, go a hen and a tame raven. A stork flies over the grass. On the grass stands a fat man with a red nose; he sells ice-cream. All the children will have (i.e. want) ices. It is a warm after-summer-day (i.e. late summer day).

Reading the translated text, it may be rather obvious that the translation is a literal one. The interesting thing about translation is that there is often a philosophical divide regarding how to proceed with a translation (especially if a translator is working with fiction). A translator can proceed with a literal translation or choose to reshape the text to convey the original author’s meaning, but not necessarily the syntax. The second option, to reshape the text, is pretty appealing from a linguistic standpoint, if only because a literal translation often produces an exit text similar to the one above: one that conveys the meaning of the original author but with a syntax that shows it was first written in another language. Reshaping a sentence according to meaning is certainly a more hands-on task for a translator, but if the exit text is to be devoid of awkward constructions (e.g., “In the park sits a young man on a bench and dreams.”; “All the children will want ices.”), it is important to think of the exit text’s audience and not simply the author’s meaning.

The Danske Tekster

I’ve recently become a freelance copyeditor. It’s pretty neat so far, although working from home is an adjustment. My favorite half-joke of the past two weeks (since I received the good news) is to talk about how, as a freelancer, I can work anywhere. That includes my home, a local coffee shop, the public library, on a ridge in West Virginia, or Copenhagen. I really want to go to Copenhagen.

I joined the Brooklyn Public Library and found Danish: An Elementary Grammar and Reader by Elias Bredsdorff. (I really like the cover.) I’ve always been more interested in Swedish because of my love of Ingmar Bergman’s films but, in terms of destinations, I prefer Copenhagen to Stockholm.

I’ve only just started glancing through the book, but I’ve already found my favorite part: The Danske Tekster. In the subsection “The Written Language” (p. 2), Bredsdorff explains,

It is fairly easy for a British or American student to acquire a reading knowledge of Danish.

Three things are essential for that purpose: an elementary knowledge of the structure and grammar of the Danish language, a Danish–English dictionary, and a little imagination. Even without the help of the two former assets it is possible to understand many Danish words and sentences, because they have a close resemblance to English. As an illustration and a proof of this, three Danish texts are given below, with a total vocabulary of more than 150 common Danish words, of which only five are given in English translation. Using his [or her] imagination any English student should be able to understand and translate 90–100 per cent of the texts, even if they are the first Danish texts he has ever seen.

I had to read that twice, mostly because of how presumptuous the author was in claiming that any old Anglophone can translate Danish without having learned a lick of the language. I’m not offended by that though, because it plays right into what I like best about language: using it. Chances are good that I won’t learn much Danish (not pessimism, just realism), so it’s not a whole lot of fun to read about the specific parts of the language if I won’t ever have to use that knowledge. However, what you learn about a language means a lot more if you know that you’re learning it for a reason.

So, here’s the challenge: translate the following paragraph from Danish to English. It seems a ridiculous task, but I tried it and it was pretty fun. Go ahead and post what you think the text says in English and mail it to patrickpatrickswayze at gmail. I’ll post the book’s translation on Thursday.

It’s also worthwhile to know that the text is not especially complex, grammatically or semantically. That doesn’t make it any easier, but just keep in mind that your translation should not sound like Proust.

Nu vil vi begynde. Vi vil lære dansk. Mange danske ord er i familie med (‘med’,
with) engelske ord.

Vi er i et rum i et hus i England. her er en dør, og (‘og’, and) der er to vinduer. Vi kan se ud i en park, hvor der er mange børn. Solen skinner; det er en varm dag. Det er mandag den første september. I parken sidder en ung mand på (‘på’, on) en bænk og drømmer. På hans knæ er en åben bog. Et lille barn går i det grønne græs. Det lille barn har en ny spade i hånden; barnet vil grave et dybt hul. I et bed, hvor der er friske røde og hvide roser, går en høne og en tam ravn. En stork flyver over græsset. På græsset står en fed mand med en rød næse; han sægler iskrem. Alle børnene bil have is. Det er en varm eftersommerdag.

Editorial eyes

I really like telling people I am an editor. I think for a long time I didn’t quite understand what it was to be an editor; as a kid, I needed examples to help me understand what things meant. Like being an editor, so it means that you edit something. But what? Anything can be edited, but I realized later that most editors work with media, and most of that media is written, aural, or visual.

For me, editing a manuscript is a great way to manage my capacity to overanalyze, and most errors you notice when editing are rather llamativo (Esp.; eye-catching, striking). However, not all errors involve punctuation, spelling, or transposition, and that’s where it can get tricky. It’s important for any editor to understand the difference between stylistic and substantive edits and also edits that change meaning.

Stylistic edits are often determined by a specific editorial style, publishing house style, dictionary, or the editor’s own preferences. Style guides are bases for how to proceed with the editing of a manuscript. Certain editorial styles (e.g., APA) leave the editor with a lot of freedom and advise the editor to, when in doubt, keep edits consistent. However, other styles (e.g., Chicago) are more specific and even go so far as to explain grammatical edits that the editor should make. House styles are usually more specific, with suggestions and rules that build on those from style guides to form a more universal style guide.

Substantive edits can seem less arbitrary than stylistic edits (because sometimes changing demonstrate to show seems unnecessary) and mainly involve facts and details. Although the line between copyediting and fact checking can be a thin one, I would say that fact checking involves pointing out and correcting substantive issues within a manuscript. Essentially, you, the fact checker or copy editor, are responsible for making sure that both someone who (a) has no knowledge of the subject matter and (b) is intimately familiar with the subject matter can grasp the basic idea and purpose and corroborate stated facts, respectively.

In essence, stylistic and substantive edits fall under the umbrella of meaning and seek to enhance the readability and clarity of any piece of written work. However, the whole idea of being an editor revolves around how the editor is not the author. The editor shapes the author’s ideas and, therefore, meaning is important so to reflect said ideas. Making stylistic and substantive edits, if done correctly and effectively, should not change meaning.


English has always been, and frustratingly so, a difficult language for me to comprehend. Perhaps due to my own learning style, I only really began to understand English in my second or third year of studying Spanish — only when we started writing diarios (journal entries).

A friend of mine mentioned yesterday that he glissaded down a hill while mountaineering in Washington state. I find glissade to be such a pleasant word. Glissade is derived from the French glisser, “to slip”. I think what I like best is that it is an onomatopoeic word, or a word whose sound describes its meaning. From there, I enjoy the composition of the word itself. I like the sound of the -ss- at the middle, and also the gl- at the beginning.

To digress into nit-picking, I should be able to refer to those two phonemes with something more substantial than their form (e.g., -ss-, gl-). I mean, I did take a Lingusitics 101 class in college, right? It’s too bad I didn’t find it more interesting at the time.

A lot of a Linguistics 101 class in college talks about phonology, the system of sounds of a language. You learn about minimal pairs (two words whose pronunciation differs only in one sound and are recognized as distinct words), allophones, morphemes, and other basic elements of historical and modern pronunciation. It’s a tough subject to follow, in my opinion, but why that is I’m not entirely sure. For me, I wonder if it wasn’t because I didn’t associate any meaning with those words — allophone, morpheme — like I did with, for example, bones in the human body. The idea of a morpheme seemed just a little too distant for me to grasp (Oxford American Dictionary: “a meaningful morphological unit of a language that cannot be further divided [e.g., incoming: in-, -com-, -ing]”).

Returning to the idea of why I like the word glissade, I instantly liked glissade when I first read it and said it to myself. Why did I like the word? Well, my first idea was to break it down by phonemes (the part of Linguistics 101 that I did grasp). The trouble is, that’s about as far as I got. Phonemes have many forms and are subdivided into consonants and vowels. Additionally, phonemes of consonants are named in accordance with their place of articulation.

Because I didn’t retain much from my tutelage in phonetics, I took to searching for -ss- and trying to find the name of the phoneme. Unfortunately, another dead end is my relative inability to read and/or understand the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). (When exactly do people learn the IPA in their lives, really? Is it just linguistics students who do?) In the end, I’m pretty sure that -ss- is a voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative. Sitting at my desk at work, I tried to figure out the correct sounds, trying to make the sound myself and identify the place of articulation.

Try saying glissade and try working out the syllables yourself:


Further, break it down by phonemes and pay close attention to the places of articulation:

gl- (This is an affricate, or the sound created by the combination of a plosive and fricative. You will feel your epiglottis close when you make the initial g sound and thereafter feel your tongue slide along your soft palate with the l sound. It is voiced because you use your vocal chords to make the initial sound. It is a glottal stop because your epiglottis closes, thereby cutting off your air supply and making it hard to hold the sound for very long.)

-ss- (Voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative; You will feel the tip of your tongue move to behind your front teeth and, if you hold the sound, you will feel some air escape through your teeth. It is voiceless because you do not use your vocal chords to make the sound. It is a fricative because it is a sound produced by the air flowing through your mouth, and it is also a sibilant because it produces a hissing sound.)

-d (Voiced alveolar plosive; You will feel your tongue hit your palate quickly. I didn’t explain what a plosive is after describing the composition of an affricate, but a plosive is the sound of opening up a previously closed oral passage. It is alveolar because the sound is produced using the alveolar bone in the jaw.)

The complete idea of the pronunciation of glissade involves the glottal stop with the gl- and subsequent movement of the air through the mouth with the -ss- and reopening of the epiglottal passage with -d.

When trying to figure out the places of articulation while sitting at my desk at work, I realized just how hard it is to identify what my tongue is doing. Sounds come and go quickly, and it’s hard to focus not only on the syllables, but also the tongue movement it takes to make the syllable as well as where one tongue movement ends and the construction of the next syllable begins. The process certainly lends further insight as for the difficulties we have pronouncing many words in foreign languages: just like any other muscle, your tongue may not be trained to carry out the movements necessary to make a given sound.

Oh, and here’s the videoof said friend in Washington state, glissading 2,000 feet down a mountain.

UPDATE: So, it turns out, it wasn’t actually said friend in Washington state in the video, but rather a friend of said friend. I stand corrected!


The other day, I was reading and stopped at the word choice. I stared at it for a few seconds, halfway frustrated with why it stopped me dead in my tracks and halfway befuddled by the way it was spelled. I was fixated on the vowel combination of oi. Is that really normal? Is this really the only way to spell choice?

Eventually, I moved on after my brief bout of self-righteousness. I realized that my thinking that choicewas misspelled was my own doing, but I’m unsure why it happened. Why do we sometimes read words and are convinced that they are misspelled?

I started with some research, but it’s difficult to get relevant results from a Google search of “think that word is misspelled but is not”. I assumed that it had something to do with linguistics, but it’s hard to blame linguistics as a whole because it is such a multidisciplinary subject area. With the way my mind works, I wanted to define this happening with the name of a study, thereby making it easier to search for or look up on Wikipedia. No luck.

I ended up arriving to Wikipedia’s page on psycholinguistics, as I realized that thinking that a word is misspelled has to be associated with a cognitive process. Psycholinguistics involves major linguistic elements, such as morphology (word structure; morphemes are the smallest units of syntax), syntax (sentence structure), phonology (sound), semantics (word meaning), or orthography (the way words are written), interpreted in terms of the cognitive processes involved with word recognition and reading. For me, my reading of choice had nothing to do with anything but orthography. It seems like much of psycholinguistics involves behavioral studies involving eye movements and reaction times. After fixating on oi and why it looked weird, I wondered if it was the way that the letter combination looked, aesthetically. Responses to orthography can often involve the way that letters look because, on a very basic level, we read shapes, which is why it isn’t hard to read that one chain e-mail with words whose letters at the beginning and end were the same, but whose middle letters had been jumbled (e.g, Cmabrigde Uinervtisy). Although, it would seem that the jumbled form of the word needs to resemble its correct form (i.e., it’s less obvious that Cbrmagdie Uvtiernsy is really Cambridge University).

Looking up the etymology of choice was an intriguing diversion, as I found that the Modern English choice derives from the Old French chois (v. choisir). Choice was adopted into Old English beginning with the Norman conquest of Britain in the early 11th century and, finally, halfway through the 14th century it properly replaced the previous word for choice, cyre. What I’m still curious about, though, is when the French spelling of chois was changed to the current spelling of choice. I would assume that regardless of the spelling, both words were pronounced the same (IPA: tʃɔɪs; ch ois), as English was still largely phonetic at that time, due to Old English’s existence as a Germanic language.

So, I’ll write off my confusion regarding the correct way to spell choice as a momentary lapse of orthography and move on. At least the English language is not only frustrating to many and challenging to those who wish to understand it, but also constantly evolving. I’m also glad for articles like this one by Joseph Berger, Struggling to Put the ‘Ortho’ back in Orthography. Thank goodness for constructive criticism.


Pronunciation, to me, has been a source of fascination, intimidation, and triumph. As a child I often pronounced words in many different ways, unwittingly so, and to this day I think about how many ways I pronounced “thanks” and made a fool of myself in front of my third grade classmates. It’s much easier for me to reflect on that now that my world of language has been so greatly amplified via time spent overseas and multilingual friends. Now that I live in Washington, D.C., I hear a variety of languages but often I can identify them. I’m perplexed by this; I probably give myself too much credit and am grateful for having watched so many European films. Yet, I wonder if I only notice the languages because I have heard them before. The sounds of Swedish are not so uncommon to me now that I have begun to admire the films of Ingmar Bergman. In fact, I am pretty sure that I had swedes standing next to me on a Metro platform the other day; it’s not because I understood at all what they were saying, but rather because the sounds and the rhythm of the language sounded weirdly familiar. And I heard the couple say jo (djo:) – the Swedish word for “yes”.

However, this recognition of other languages and my ability to produce the same sounds has reaffirmed my above mentioned perspective on pronunciation. It seems that the biggest reason that a lot of people I meet don’t speak foreign languages is not because they aren’t interested, but because pronouncing words is a source of anxiety. The loss of naïveté is a rough moment and in the past year I’ve had a couple of instances in which I have realized that, plainly, I don’t pronounce things as well as I think I do. This is not a bad thing. I know that French is a very hard language to speak and of the little French I speak, I thought that I was able to pronounce things decently well. After speaking French with two Frenchmen and having them correct my pronunciation errors, I realized that it’s difficult to judge one’s own pronunciation. Granted, I am critical of myself because I hold my pronunciation to high standards. Still, it was strange to realize that there is an interesting relationship between how I think I am pronouncing something and how it actually sounds to someone else. Case in point: Ikea.

When exiting Ikea it is hard to miss the sign that explains how to say “good-bye” in Swedish: hej . There’s a phonetic spelling on the wall that explains that the ‘e’ in hej is pronounced with a long a sound; yet, for the longest time I thought I was saying it correctly by saying something along the lines of haa dau. I didn’t realize that I had been pronouncing it wrong until recently, when a friend explained how to pronounce it. It occurred to me that I had fooled myself. The phonetic spelling on the wall reads ha: do: (or, better put, haa dau) and intends for English speakers to recognize that the way to pronounce the Swedish word hej closely mirrors the pronunciation of the English word hay (perhaps also hey). Thus, it incorporates a long (English) a sound.

To avoid completely losing my audience, I’ll digress for a moment.

The Spanish language has taught me a lot about vowel pronunciation. In Spanish, a phonetic language, the pronunciation of every word can be inferred by simply pronouncing every letter of the word. That said, the sounds of letters don’t change unless they are accented, in which case the sounds are made longer. I learned how to pronounce the vowels a, e, and i by teaching myself that the pronunciation of the Spanish a mirrors the way English speakers say the a in law. The Spanish e sounds very much like the a in bay, and the i sounds like the e in me. Or, rather, the pronunciation English vowel a has been split into two vowels in Spanish, a and e, and the pronunciation of the English e is the how one pronounces the Spanish i.

In Spanish:
a = a in ‘law’
e = a in ‘bay’
i = e in ‘me’

To return to the explanation of why I had been pronouncing hej wrong, I realized that I had been pronouncing this foreign word by unconsciously pronouncing the vowels as if I were speaking Spanish. When I saw the phonetic spelling ha: do: I said the a based upon how I would say the a in Spanish and thought that I was correct. I had been told previously that I pronounce most words in other languages with as if I were speaking Spanish, but it was really funny to me to finally realize how true that was. It has taught me a lot about how we judge our pronunciation; it deviates from our ability to recognize what we have convinced ourselves is right and that which actually is.

på Fårö

The word cinéaste (someone with a great interest in film; a more vulgar version is film buff) is a french term that originates from the mixture of two words: cinéma and entousiaste.

This weekend at the National Gallery of Art there was an abbreviated film series in Bergman’s honor, at which his last film, Saraband, and a portrait of Bergman’s life on the Swedish island Fårö, Bergman Island, were shown today, Saturday. Tomorrow, Sunday, there is one other film, Sunday’s Children, which offers a view of Bergman’s childhood and is directed by his youngest son, Daniel.

The experience of spending 5 hours at the National Gallery of Art, watching work by and about a filmmaker that I enjoy so much, was sublime. Perhaps an additional delight was the collection of articles and interviews put together by the gallery, Scenes from a Life: Ingmar Bergman. I was particularly captivated by the following passage from the second chapter, titled “On Dreams, the Subconscious and Filmmaking”, of the book Film & Dreams: An Approach to Bergman. In it, Bergman relates,

Writing, filmmaking, and the creation of pictures are so extremely close to our dreams. . . .

Twice I have transferred dreams to film exactly as I had dreamed them. One is Wild Strawberries, the sequence with the coffin. Without any translation, it’s just put in as it occurred in my dream. The other film is The Naked Night, the first sequence with the clown and his wife.

Film has a very hypnotic effect on the audience. You sit there in a completely dark room, very anonymously. You look at a spot in front of you, and you don’t move. You sit and you don’t move, while your eyes are concentrated on that white spot on the wall. This is exactly what some hypnotists do. They light a spot on the wall and ask you to follow it with your eyes, while they talk to you and then they hypnotize you.

The film medium is some sort of magic. Also, it is magic that every frame comes and stands still for a fraction of a second and then it darkens. this means that half of the time while you watch a film, you remain in complete darkness. Isn’t that fascinating? That is magic. In this medium, as in music, we go straight to the feelings. Only afterwards we can start to work with our intellect. If the film is good, if the suggestions from the filmmaker are strong enough, they’ll stimulate your thoughts when you leave the screening room.

No more, no less. I can say, though, that I was sad to see the curtains drawn; the cinema fostered a wonderful moment that lasted all afternoon. Perhaps it is why I do enjoy films by Buñuel and Bergman so much; I may leave the theater, but the feelings channeled through their work remain with me still.