Saturday, November 17, 2007

Damn computer, and a couple of books

Yeah, well, my PC blew up again last month, hence no blog entries for awhile. It's still in the shop, so I'm writing this from school. I'm hoping to have enough money to buy myself a laptop before I leave for SF in January, but with Christmas coming up, I seriously doubt it.

Now that I'm sans computer I have more time to read. Since I hadn't read a novel in quite awhile, I went to Borders the other day to see what would catch my interest. It took great self-control to pull myself away from the language reference section (do I really need another book on Sanskrit morphology?)

I ended up buying
The Best Little Boy In The World by Andrew Tobias aka John Reid. I devoured it in one day. I found myself relating to so many of the thoughts and feelings Tobias had as a child and teenager. Although some critics dislike his ego, I admired his honesty, which, for me, solidified the credibility of his story. These same critics must have missed Tobias' many self-deprecating references to his feelings of self-importance.

While perusing the shelves at Borders, I realized that, as someone who hopes to be teaching English overseas very soon, I was completely unfamiliar with Shakespeare's works. I figured I should have at least a basic familiarity with the person popularly regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. My only exposure to The Bard was in 10th grade when my English class was forced to read Julius Caesar. Remembering the indigestion that 16th Century English caused me back then, I opted to get one of those "Shakespeare Made Easy" books, where the original language appears side-by-side with a modern translation. Because I'm a beginner, I figured that comedy would be more palatable than heavy drama or tragedy. I decided on Twelfth Night.

I finished reading the play last night, and yes, I did enjoy it. Although I managed to read the original English, I had to turn to the modern version after every few lines to truly understand what was going on. Yet, I'm glad that I got to see the original also, because there were many instances where the full effect of Shakespeare's clever use of language was apparent only in the original.

I'm still plugging away at Chinese. After a couple of months, I'm finally gritting my teeth and tackling the written language along with spoken. So far I know about 40 characters. I can recognize the meaning of others, from my one year of Japanese, but that doesn't help me with the pronunciation. My goal is to know enough phrases and written words to survive somewhat at the beginning. I know that I won't really improve until I'm in Taiwan and forced to speak.

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