goodness, life

The right kind of crazy

Helping strangers is my favorite thing because random acts of kindness are always a little surprising, and the helper has no expectation of repayment.

seems legit

I encountered a Chinese woman while walking to the parking center from Office Job the other day.  She asked for directions to a freeway bus stop, and since it wasn’t far I told her I would just show her.  We chatted as we walked; she had just graduation with two masters degrees, loved living in LA (hooray!), and was looking for a job.  She was trying to get to El Monte (about 17mi away), and since I had the afternoon off, I offered to just drive her.  She said, “Really?!  Wow, that is so nice.  Thank you so much.”  It’s a little crazy to offer a ride to a stranger, but it’s definitely crazier to accept a ride from a stranger.  So win-win, right?  heh.

She turned out to be super nice.  I told her I work with another Chinese woman in my office who asks me questions about American culture and the English language all the time.  She jumped on that and asked if I could help her with her English too.  Of course!  This is my professional future!  She and Chinese Office Friend both said I should teach English in China and make bank.  Win!

I invited her to come play board games with us at my apartment some time.  She seemed really excited about that, and gave me her resume and got my phone number and email before we arrived.  After we arrived, she got her things together amid many ‘thank you’s,’ then looked me square in the eye and said, “Thank you for driving me.  You have the gift of the god.”  I was so touched.  I said thank you, and we promised to stay in touch.  I’m inviting her to my housewarming next Friday.


Challenge: English

Anyone who is at all familiar with me or my blog knows that I love English.  As a language, it’s just awesome.  It’s also difficult to learn as a foreign speaker (or a native speaker for that matter), however, and I have a few theories on specifically why that is.

1. English has a ton of single-syllable words.

When you’re trying to understand what someone is saying, every syllable is a new opportunity to do so.  Each one is a puzzle piece.  Some get discarded, others get mushed together until something recognizable starts to show up.   I think this might be one reason why the romance languages are so pleasing to listen to: they use so many syllables to get to where they need to go.  Then again, so does German, and that language sounds like a train being dropped onto a crowded freeway.

Back me up, Wikipedia!  “English words of more than two syllables are likely to come from French, often with modified terminations.”  English gives the audience so few chances to hear and understand each word, pattern recognition (understanding groups of sounds [phrases] rather than words, and anticipating meaning) and years of experience become necessary to become an accomplished speaker.


a google search for "sombrero fashion" does not disappoint

2. English has no single point of origin

English seems to be the mutt of languages.  Heavily drawn from French and German, English must be a bitch to learn if you weren’t a native speaker.  English vocabulary and rules of grammar don’t always have the same source.  That’s crazy!  That’s like speaking Spanish with Japanese rules of grammar (verb at the end, etc.).  Or using your fashion sense to solve a math problem.  Irrationally fabulous!

3. English class is never over

English has the largest vocabulary in the world, which is one reason why I love it so much.  We have a word for just about everything!  But as a direct result, even native speakers occasionally encounter words whose definitions escape them.  If you didn’t go to college, you will not understand at least four words in an hour-long conversation with an intelligent college graduate (unless the topic is Jersey Shore or some such nonsense).  And this doesn’t include the subtle differences between words like clock and watch (a watch is worn, a clock is mounted), shade and shadow (a shadow creates shade).  Compare to Spanish sombreroSombra is shade, so sombrero literally means “shader.”  SO SIMPLE.

4. English is a fucking quagmire

The rules only apply some of the time.  Spelling is really really important, because three different words pronounced the same way can mean three different things when spelled differently (there, their, they’re).  Use the phrase “in so far as much” in a sentence.  Properly.  Yikes.

he's pretty pissed

I wonder sometimes if I love English because it’s my native tongue, or because it’s such a challenging language and it gives me pride to know that I have, by and large, mastered it.  Even native speakers acknowledge that English is a bitch to learn and consistently speak without butchering repeatedly.  One of my favorite games, Kingdom of Loathing, won’t allow its players to chat without passing a basic English test… proctored by the ghost of the English language.  When you pass, he tells you to “avenge his death.”  Classic!