What effect has ‘the silent pain of the species’ in Silvio’s soul?
This was the question that I had to write a short essay about in a Spanish literature and conversation class a few months ago. I attended the class in the Cervantes Institute in London because I knew that my fluency in Spanish left much to be desired and because I like literature, obviously. I had imagined that in class I’d have the opportunity to speak about Hispanic authors and that I would have to read some books at home so that we could discuss them in class afterwards.
La gloria “será nuestra, que fuemos los primeros inventores de obra tan necessaria”
En 1492, la primera gramática del castellano fue escrito por Antonio de Nebrija (1441-1522), un humanista renacentista español educado en las universidades de Salamanca y Bolonia (Italia). Y ni siquiera era la obra sólo la primera gramática del castellano; era la primera gramática de cualquier idioma moderno de Europa, y punto. La primera gramática del inglés no fue publicado hasta casi un siglo más tarde (en 1586), lo del francés en 1550.
The glory “will be ours, as we were the first inventors of a work so necessary”
In 1492, the first grammar of Castilian – the language better known as Spanish to English-speakers – was written by Antonio de Nebrija (1441-1522), a Spanish Renaissance humanist, educated in the universities of Salamanca and Bologne (Italy). And not only it was the first Spanish grammar; it was the first grammar of a modern European language, full stop. The first English grammar was only published nearly a century later (in 1586), the first French one in 1550.
Acabo de volver del Instituto Cervantes de Londres – de mi primer clase de literatura en español. Esperaba que volvería a casa más sofisticada y con una experiencia de haber hablado en español mucho tiempo durante de las dos horas del clase sobre literatura, y bueno, quizá también con el título de un libro que tendré que empezar a leer para el próximo clase.
Volví a casa con una fotocopia de los primeros treinta páginas de un libro argentino y el deseo de cambiar el curso. Si lo puedo, a esas alturas.
While reading a history of the Latin language recently, I came across one of the fables of Aesop – translated into English from Nahuatl. In case you’ve never heard of Nahuatl, it was the language of the Aztec empire and in consequence the lingua franca of Central-America up to the 16th century; it is still spoken in parts of Mexico.
The book in question is Ad infinitum: A Biography of Latin by Nicholas Ostler and I wouldn’t recommend it to the general public although if you do happen to be interested in historical linguistics and especially in Latin, it’s fine; all the more enjoyable if you can actually know Latin of course (sadly I don’t).
But what has a Nahuatl version of the fables of Aesop – who after all was Greek – got to do with the history of Latin?
When I travel anywhere I like to take a book that relates to the place I’m visiting. It’s usually a novel set there or a book on the history of the place – or more likely, one of each. Walking down Milsom Street in Bath after you read Persuasion becomes that just a little bit more special. The Torre de Oro in Sevilla seems far more impressive when you know its history. And so, planning to visit Venice soon, I recently embarked on re-reading the Alatriste series of Arturo Pérez-Reverte because Book VII, The Bridge of Assassins, is set in Venice. Those famous churches, bridges and canals will acquire a certain sinister significance when viewed through the eyes of the would be assassins of the Doge.
If you’ve ever been to Greece, you know that the Greeks are both hospitable and friendly. (They’re also not averse to take the clueless foreign tourist for a ride, but that’s another matter.) And one of the surest way to win their hospitality is to make the effort and speak a smattering of Greek. This generally holds true in any country, by the way, and the more obscure the language, the more your effort will be appreciated by the natives. Take this as travel tip of the week. 🙂
Travelling leads to strange encounters. Especially if you’re committed to speak the language of your destination.
In World War II a young Royal Navy sailor by the name of Ernle Bradford sauntered into a Greek bar in Alexandria and came out brainwashed because he had been imprudent enough to say “Kalimera” to the man behind the counter. A few years ago I went to Delphi and was imprudent enough not only to say “Kalimera” but to follow it up with saying that I hoped to read Herodotus in the original someday.