A Jonah of Portugal: A Few Lines About Camoens

Jonah (in the Bible) is a Hebrew minor prophet. He was called by God to preach in Nineveh, but disobeyed and attempted to escape by sea; in a storm he was thrown overboard as a bringer of bad luck and swallowed by a great fish, only to be saved and finally succeed in his mission

Luís Vaz de Camões (or de Camoens) (c. 1524 – June 10 1580) is the greatest national poet of Portugal. He is best remembered for his epic work Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads), the influence of which is so profound that even today, Portuguese is often called the “language of Camões”. He is also well known as the man whose life was marked with numerous troubles, which seemed to accompany him like seagulls that follow a boat.

camoesMany details concerning the life of the poet remain unknown. The historians learned many facts about his young life from his poems: Camoens was lucky to obtain a good education by having access to exclusive literature of that time, including classical Greek, Roman and Latin works. He used to read a lot in Latin and Italian, and wrote poetry in Spanish.

Now, comes the interesting part: having studied a massive amount of books, Camoens — an incurable romantic and idealist — fell in love with Catherine of Ataíde, lady-in-waiting to the Queen, and also Princess Maria, sister of John III of Portugal. Like many other immature and brave romantics-in-love, the young man had a sharp tongue and, as a sequence, could not find common language with authorities, which resulted in his exile from Lisbon in 1548. Camoens traveled to Ribatejo where he stayed in the company of friends who sheltered and fed him for about six months.

In the fall of 1549, he enlisted in the overseas militia and traveled to Ceuta. During a battle with the Moors, he lost the sight in his right eye. In 1551, a changed man, Camoens eventually returned to Lisbon, living a bohemian lifestyle.

Not for long, though. In 1552, during the religious festival of Corpus Christi, in the Largo do Rossio, he injured a member of the Royal Stables and was imprisoned. His mother pleaded for his release, visiting royal ministers and the Borges family for a pardon. Released, Camoens was ordered to pay 4,000 réis and serve three years in the militia in the Orient.

He departed in 1553 for Goa on board the São Bento, the ship arrived to Goa six months later, and Camoens was immediately imprisoned for debt. He used to call Goa “a stepmother to all honest men”.

At that point in his life, Camoens was made to believe that adventure is the real man’s second name. During his first obligatory service, he took part in a battle along the Malabar Coast. The battle was followed by skirmishes along the trading routes between Egypt and India. The fleet eventually returned to Goa by November 1554. During his time ashore, he continued his writing publicly, as well as writing correspondence for the uneducated men of the fleet.

Camoens

Luís de Camões

Foge-me pouco a pouco a curta vida
(se por caso é verdade que inda vivo);
vai-se-me o breve tempo d’ante os olhos;
choro pelo passado e quando falo,
se me passam os dias passo e passo,
vai-se-me, enfim, a idade e fica a pena.

Little by little it ebbs, this life,
if by any chance I am still alive;
my brief time passes before my eyes.
I mourn the past in whatever I say;
as each day passes, step by step
my youth deserts me—what persists is pain.

At the end of his obligatory service, he was given the position of chief warrant officer in Macau. He was charged with managing the properties of missing and deceased soldiers in the Orient. During this time he worked on his epic poem Os Lusíadas (“The Lusiads”) in a grotto.

CamoensGrotto

Camoens Grotto, Macao

Uh-huh. Once a Jonah always a Jonah! Camoens was accused of misappropriations and had to travel to Goa and respond to the accusations of the tribunal. During his return journey, near the Mekong River along the Cambodian coast, he was shipwrecked, saving his manuscript but losing his Chinese lover, Dinamene. His shipwreck survival in the Mekong Delta was enhanced by the legendary detail that he succeeded in swimming ashore while holding aloft the manuscript of his still-unfinished epic.

In 1570 Camoens finally made it back to Lisbon, where two years later he published Os Lusíadas, for which he was considered one of the most prominent Iberian poets at the time. In recompense for this poem or perhaps for services in the Far East, he was granted a small royal pension (15000 réis) by the young and ill-fated King Sebastian (ruled 1557–1578).

In 1578 he heard of the appalling defeat of the Battle of Alcácer Quibir, where King Sebastian was killed and the Portuguese army destroyed. The Castilian troops were approaching Lisbon when Camoens wrote to the Captain General of Lamego:

“All will see that so dear to me was my country that I was content to die not only in it but with it”.

Camões died in Lisbon in 1580, at the age of 56. The day of his death, 10 June OS, is Portugal’s national day. He is buried near Vasco da Gama in the Jerónimos Monastery in the parish of Belém in Lisbon.

camoens2

Mick Jagger and a Russian Book

mick-Woland

I just learned that when Mick Jagger (of The Rolling Stones) was writing his song “Sympathy for the Devil”, he was inspired by the book which I love more than many other books taken together and find one of the best books ever written in Russian. In one of his 2012 interviews, Jagger stated that his influence for the song came from reading Baudelaire, and even more from the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita. Jagger got the book as a present from his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull. Back in 2005, Marianne herself confirmed this during an interview for Mojo magazine: «I got Mick to read ‘The Master and Margarita’ and out of that, after discussing it at length with me, he wrote that song».

Master and Margarita, written in the 1930-es, became available to the English-speaking readers only in 1967. The translators, of course, did their best. Still. the book is so thought-provoking and the story world (Moscow of the 1930-ies, the peak of Stalin’s power) is so unique that majority of the readers prefer to return to it again and again to understand and sense it better.

As a Russian speaker by birth, I have the pleasure of enjoying the masterpieces of Russian literature and poetry in originals. Every couple of months, Bulgakov’s books turn up on my table and I never put them back to the shelf until I read everything through to the very end. I am not surprised at all that Mick Jagger was inspired by the book to write a new song. If you have not read The Master and Margarita yet, do so. You will feel like having opened a new door which you used to pass by for years, and now you finally pushed it open.

P.S. Finally, another cute trivia: Ray Manzarek of the legendary band The Doors had for a long time hoped to make a movie picture based on The Master and Margarita, he believed that Mick Jagger would be the best candidate to play Professor Woland in the movie. As far as I know, the movie was never made.

Based on Wikipedia and www.masterandmargarita.eu

Sympathy for the Devil

The Rolling Stones

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste

And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
(Woo woo, woo woo)

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
(Woo woo, woo woo)

I shouted out,
“Who killed the Kennedys?”
When after all
It was you and me
(Who who, who who)

Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
(Woo woo, who who)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
(Who who)
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
(Who who, who who)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s confusing you
Is just the nature of my game
(Woo woo, who who)

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint
(Who who, who who)

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
(Woo woo)
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah
(Woo woo, woo woo)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah
(Who who)
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down
(Woo woo, woo woo)

Woo, who
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Oh yeah!
(Woo woo)

Tell me baby, what’s my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what’s my name
I tell you one time, you’re to blame

Oh, who
Woo, woo
Woo, who
Woo, woo
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Oh, yeah

What’s my name
Tell me, baby, what’s my name
Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name…

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Being yourself in the 21st century

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”. Oscar Wilde

Now, replace the word “mask” with the word “Facebook” and read the quotation again. It remains true in today’s world, doesn’t it? We can put in “Twitter”, or “Google”, or any other name of a virtual communication network, and Oscar Wilde’s words will sound like a correct observation about our current lifestyle.

behind-a-mask

A century ago, a mask (a really good one) was needed to help a person feel safe about speaking out their mind. Today, you can click on an “enter” button and write anything you want on a virtual wall; what is more, you can be pretty sure that you won’t be made responsible for your words. Does this mean that “being yourself” and expressing yourself openly has become more welcome in today’s world?

Honestly, I don’t think so. Our current lifestyle has given us unprecedented freedom of expressing ourselves and sharing knowledge with each other – freely, unconditionally, and practically in no time, but today, unlike it was in Oscar Wilde’s time, even when you say something meaningful to the world, your words will drown in the ocean of other stuff, which pours into our minds through social networking systems, press and media every minute.

Well, of course there are topics which people prefer to bypass even on social media. I have noticed that some articles of ambivalent meaning on Facebook (nothing special, just the ones that require a different angle of vision) are often ignored and receive no feedback at all, which means that people are still wearing their masks, even when their identity is “protected” by the freedom of social networks. Yeah, people have become smarter.

carrot-stick-approach  

But have they become wiser?

There is so much information everywhere around us that we – the people of the 21-st century – have learned to protect our minds against it: we simply don’t care anymore. In our crazy run away from the past to reach out for the future we forget to pay attention to the reason of the run.

To a 21-st century writer, whose mission is still the same – to observe and reflect the reality as it is – the new system of mind protection raises a problem: I mean, how can writers’ voices be heard when the readers have lost the ability to care?

behind_mask_cat_woman

In the 20th century it was not unusual to hear a saying that “a good writer is the nerve of his time”. The new millennium has led us to an opposite approach: how good is the writer’s “nerve” unless it is connected to the reader’s brain?

I hate to say this, but today, what used to be called the “nerve” has a tendency to transform into a logbook. The only hope is that the emotional personality in each person will still remain intact, it will require some emotional activity from us. If human feelings (like compassion, tenderness, affection, sympathy or others) are going to hide behind even harder masks than a century ago, then people will probably want to turn back to reading fiction in order to satisfy their needs in emotional life. Have you noticed that reading fiction is already becoming an intimate occupation? I think this trend will intensify in the nearest future.

I’d like to share another observation here: the growing interest to reading fantasy and sci-fi books. Isn’t it another evidence of the changes taking place in human minds to satisfy our need of self-expression? True or not, but one thing I can say for sure: people are actively learning to be themselves in the 21-st century. With a new design of our masks, we still find it difficult to speak out the truth. So, some of us plunge into the world of fantasy as we look for ways to satisfy the need to be ourselves.

Spoiled by Dostoevsky, Healed by Humor

“The soul is healed by being with children.” F. Dostoevsky

child_oil-painting-3

Every man is born innocent. Having been born, a child knows neither evil nor good. It is us, the grown-ups, who turn every child into what they finally become. Dostoevsky was right when he said that a sinful soul of a grown-up is ‘healed by being with children’, but he never paid attention to the other side of this two-way process: being with a grown-up (Dostoevsky included!) spoils the innocent soul of a child. Therefore, whoever thinks that by being with kids they are cleansing themselves against moral degradation, they only lay a time bomb of sin… in the souls of the next generation.

Children tend to copy the adults’ behavior. The little ones don’t realize whether they are copying good or evil. Only later, when they acquire some social experiences, they will begin to differentiate between the two, but at that point, they will already be infected with sin.

child_Adam-and-Eve-Apple

The struggle of opposites underlies our existence: without knowing evil, we can not see the good. I have been thinking about it all my life – as a person, as a mother, as a teacher and now, as an author who is supposed to share with others, and I have finally come up with a solution… at least for myself. To break this vicious circle, we need to turn to… no, not the church, we need to turn to HUMOR.

Yes, exactly. We need to turn to humor. We need to develop the sense of humor in our children, because humor helps everyone to bring sin to nothing.

  • Humor teaches us to think;
  • Humor encourages creativity;
  • Humor has a huge impact on our health, it boosts our immune system;
  • Humor helps us overcome fears;
  • Humor develops divergent thinking (it gives us a chance to see things from a new perspective);
  • Humor comforts and relaxes a person, it reduces stress and cultivates optimism;
  • Humor boosts our curiosity and playfullness; and finally
  • Humor encourages creative problem-solving. Why commit a sin, when you can reach your goal by a different – quite innocent method?

So, let me paraphrase the great Russian writer (with all due respect to his genius) and say that

the soul is healed by living with humor.

If we learn to laugh instead of starting a fight or a quarrel, we can solve millions of problems and avoid conflict. If we learn to smile and teach our children to do the same instead of demonstrating an ugly emotion which we tend to call ‘power’, we can solve the dilemma of all times: conquer evil without a fight. If everyone, including children (and Dostoevsky, by the way), acquired a humorous mindset, the need in confrontation between people would reduce. Then, the real healing could begin.

I am very interested to hear what you think about this. Please, share your opinions. Thank you!

child

The Principle of Brevity in Writing

writing brevity

Today, in our fast-paced world, time has become the greatest of all values. We, people, still have not fully realized this fact, but it already dictates us the necessity to introduce some changes into our lives – first of all, in the field of time management

The dwellers of large cities (New York, London, Tokyo, etc.) were the first to sense the change: they had to reduce the time spent on walking, cooking, cleaning, driving, socializing, learning, and so on and so forth, including the time spent on reading. Today, smaller cities confidently follow megacities, while the pace of life continues to accelerate, forcing us to revise our professional habits, too.

Have you noticed that more and more people tend to skip reading long texts, even if they are beautifully written and contain brilliant ideas? We seem to give preference to visual, well-organized, simplistically laid-out, or even bullet-structured information. When we revise a book of fiction, we tend to say (more and more often these days), “It’s a good book, but a little too long. It would be better if it was one third thinner…”

The reality makes every author to face an inevitable phenomenon: we don’t only have to write quickly, we also have to adhere to the new principle: the principle of brevity in writing. The rule is simple: the shorter is your post (article, story, novel, etc.) the better, because brevity in writing shows the author’s respect for their readers’ time.

writing brevity3

This fact may upset those authors who love writing long pieces of speculative prose. Certainly, there will always remain people who will love reading very long novels, but the number of such readers will continue to reduce. Well, this is the trend of the new Millennium! I am afraid, we have nothing else to do, but adjust.

I will try to be short here, too, and wrap up this one here. As a postscriptim, to please your eyes, I will finish this post with beautiful words by Aldous Huxley, written in 1958, which have become even more timely today:

However elegant and memorable, brevity can never, in the nature of things, do justice to all the facts of a complex situation… On such a theme one can be brief only by omission and simplification… In practice we are generally forced to choose between an unduly brief exposition and no exposition at all. Abbreviation is a necessary evil and the abbreviator’s business is to make the best of a job which, though intrinsically bad, is still better than nothing. He must learn to simplify, but not to the point of falsification. He must learn to concentrate upon the essentials of a situation, but without ignoring too many of reality’s qualifying side issues. In this way he may be able to tell, not indeed the whole truth (for the whole truth about almost any important subject is incompatible with brevity), but considerably more than the dangerous quarter-truths and half-truths which have always been the current coin of thought.” A.Huxley, Brave New World Revisited.


writing brevity2

 

A Few Thoughts About Ethics in Writing

WriteEthics3

Interestingly, while ethics are huge in technical and academic writing, it is not given the same attention in the world of fiction writing. As an author who belongs to both groups, I have been watching the difference and wondering why? Could it be because scientists have to be more accurate about every word they write? Or maybe, the fiction writers are in any way more (or less) ethical than technical writers, so they don’t need to set up any rules of fiction writing ethics? 😉 I want to believe that both groups equally care about their readers and this difference is nothing more than a tradition, so nobody ever asks the question.

Ethics codes are present at the workplace: even if they aren’t always enforced, they still exist and we obey them… often mechanically, without thinking. Summing up a dozen of articles which I studied in search for an answer to my question, there are a few basic points to adhere to whenever you are writing a professional document:

  • don’t mislead;
  • don’t manipulate;
  • don’t stereotype; and
  • always check the facts.

Well, I did a thing which I may regret doing: I tried to apply these rules to fiction writing this morning… and found the reason of my writer’s block! I realized that everything fiction writers do is exactly the opposite of the four rules!

Unlike academic writing, which is all about sharing facts to feed the work of mind, fiction writing works with reader’s imagination and emotions; it’s principal idea is to mislead, manipulate, hide (or distort) facts of real life with the only purpose of creating stereotype universes in the readers’ minds and enticing them into reading! 

Does this mean that fiction writers are unethical, immoral, dishonest, improper, corrupt, unrighteous, unjust and… (could not think of more antonyms to the word “ethical”, sorry)?  Uh-huh, I kind of regret I took up the topic already!

To calm myself down, I decided to accept the following explanation: fiction writers have to break those rules of ethics. Like mathematicians, who sometimes look for a proof by contradiction, fiction writers need to show their readers a ‘different’ world, where rules are broken and norms are corrupted; we only have one rule to follow: we must expose the fake in the end. If writers did not do this, the world would never get to know “Alice in Wonderland”, “Winnie-the-Pooh” or Harry Potter books! These books mislead, manipulate, create unusual stereoptypes, and distort our reality, but they do this so awesomely well that no one can resist reading them again and again!

So, what is the answer? Is it ethical for fiction writers to ignore the ethics of academic writing? 😉 The question is still up!

Please, share your thoughts, I am very curious to know your opinions on this.

pooh1

 

 

Stepping into the Same River

Sev_001

This time, visiting my home city felt like stepping into the same river. Sevastopol, the notorious Black Sea port at the southern tip of Crimea, where I grew up, has finally and completely turned into an imprint of the Soviet era. As I walked along its streets, I could not resist a funny feeling that I’d been thrown there from the future: all surrounding objects, people, little street conversations, sounds, smells – everything was amazingly familiar, but had undeniable touch of the past- of the time about 30 years ago, when I was a teenager.

After the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, local residents of Sevastopol (more than the other dwellers of Crimea) were re-captured by their own old misconception of being the main southern forpost of Russian military glory that had protected mother Russia in a number of wars, thinking that they would now regain the attention of the Russian government and receive abundant accolades from all Russia’s population. This did not happen, though. After a short emotional moment (also provoked by the Kremlin propaganda) the population of Russia realized that Crimea is no more than another needy region that requires support, and its vaunted seaside resorts are uncomfortable and inaccessible for many Russians. Litle by little, Sevastopol – the Crimea’s dead end – was completely left to fend for itself. The only part of its nearly half-million population that feels more or less protected are the miliary and naval personnel, paid by the Russian government.

sevastopol_1

The sanctions, which affected Crimea more than any other region of Russia, have reached their goal: my childhood city looks abandoned, humiliated and deceived; people are troubled and moody, no one smiles back at you if you make eye contact – just like it was in the Soviet time. Their interests are scarce, everybody is busy surviving, and again, like it was in the Soviet time, they tend to be happy with very simple things: a lucky purchase of some fresh food in a store or a drinking party with friends in the kitchen.

Every moment I was there this time, I could not help thinking that in only three years (since the annexation) both conflicting countries – Russia and Ukraine – have estranged from each other to a huge distance, moving exactly in opposite directions: Ukraine to the west, Russia to the east, which means (unfortunately for the city of my childhood) that it has been moving backwards, into the past, and this movement will soon bring it to complete disappointment and depression.

My own mind has changed a lot, too: when I visit Sevastopol now, I see it with the curious eyes of a westerner who has purchased a time-travel tour; the only difference is that my mind still keeps clear memories of the childhood spent in that time.

Interestingly, I just caught myself on thinking that I am not even sad about this fact. All people deserve to have the life they want to have. The population of Sevastopol, at least its older (and prevailing) generation, looks quite satisfied with the movement back in time. Well, if they like it, let them have it. I will simply wave my hand to them and go my way.

Sev_013

About English Verbs

Об английских глаголах (статья для изучающих английский язык)

EN_Verbs
Каждому, кто изучал английский в школе и в институте, знакомы понятия о правильных и неправильных глаголах (к первым относятся те, которые в прошедших временах заканчиваются на -ed – to like – liked, to want – wanted, to jump – jumped, а у неправильных есть свои собственные формы прошедшего времени: to break – broke – broken, to cut – cut – cut, to see – saw – seen). Помимо этого, школьные учителя рассказывали нам, что существуют глаголы смысловые, и какие-то вспомогательные, и некие модальные глаголы и даже глаголы-связки, но уж этих понятий почти никто в большую жизнь из школы не вынес. В этой статье мы коротко напомним вам о них.

Смысловые глаголы в английском не награждены особыми приметами, этим термином обозначаются все глаголы уже только за то, что они обозначают действие, а следовательно, используются в предложении для описания разнообразных действий.

Jack writes books. Джек пишет книги.

My friend studies biology. Мой друг изучает биологию.

Please, call me at five o’clock. Пожалуйста, позвони мне в пять часов.

А вот вспомогательные глаголы имеют свою специфику. Их всего пять, это глаголы to be, to have, to do, а также слова shall (should), will (would), которые тоже принято считать глаголами, хотя на самом деле никому вообще непонятно что это за чудо-юдо. Вспомогательные глаголы совершенно несамостоятельны: их можно использовать в предложении только в сочетании со смысловыми, то есть всеми остальными, нормальными глаголами, помогая образовывать любые времена или, например, делать из положительного предложения отрицательное или вопросительное.

Теперь скажем пару слов о каждом из них.

Глагол to be уникален на фоне остальных английских глаголов, потому что у него с древних времён сохранилось несколько форм:

– в настоящем времени он приобретает формы am (для первого лица), are (для множественного числа) или is (3-го лица, единственного числа):

I am driving to work. Сейчас я еду на работу.
He is writing a letter. Он пишет письмо.
They are waiting for you. Они ждут вас.

– в прошедшем времени у него две формы: was (для единственного числа), were (для множественного числа)

He was writing a letter when I called. Он писал письмо когда я позвонил..
They were waiting for you at 12:30 yesterday. Они ждали вас вчера в 12:30.
– в будущем времени он приобретает форму will be :

They will be waiting for you tomorrow at five. Они будут ждать тебя завтра в пять.

Вспомогательный глагол to do используют для построения вопросов или отрицаний, причём в настоящем времени имеет форму do или does (для третьего лица в единственном числе), а в прошедшем времени – did.

Do you know her? Ты ее знаешь?
She doesn’t live in this house. Она не живет в этом доме.
Did he go to school last Friday? Ходил ли он в школу в прошлую пятницу?

* Вам вероятно приходилось встречать и такие фразы:

Do you do this exercise daily? – Делаешь ли ты это упражнение ежедневно? – здесь “do” появляется два раза: первый из них – это как раз вспомогательный глагол, который служит для построения вопроса, а второй в данном примере выступает как обычный смысловой глагол “делать” (to do) в настоящем времени.

Глагол to have тоже используют для построения разных временных конструкций, включая вопросительные и отрицательные предложения. В настоящем времени он имеет формы have или has (для 3го лица в ед.ч.), в прошедшем времени – had, в будущем времени will have.

My mother has been to Spain. Моя мама бывала в Испании.
He had seen this movie before we saw it. Он видел этот фильм до того, как мы посмотрели его.

will служит для образования форм будущего времени.

Will you go with me? – Ты пойдёшь со мной?

Shall теперь используется совсем редко: только, когда мы сомневаемся и хотим задать вопрос, следует ли (стоит ли) нам что-то делать –

Shall I write it down for you? – Не записать ли всё это для тебя?

Shall I help you? – Не помочь ли тебе?

А формы should или would помогают обеспечить согласование между разными временами в сложных предложениях:

My husband said that he would be in office. Мой муж сказал, что будет в офисе.

She thinks she should go there by herself. Она считает, что ей следует идти туда одной.

Есть ещё в английском несколько модальных глаголов, которые дают возможность говорящему выразить свое отношение к происходящему или различную степень уверенности (неуверенности) в действии. Это глаголы can (could), may (might), must (had to), need, ought to, should, have to, to be to. Многие из них обладают способностью самостоятельно строить вопрос:

May I help you? (Do I may help you?) Могу ли я вам помочь?

Can you call him now? (Do you can call him now?) Можешь ли ты позвонить ему сейчас?

У модальных глаголов есть свои секреты и о них стоит написать отдельную статью; мы это сделаем в ближайшее время.

А так называемые глаголы-связки – или фразовые глаголы – привязывают к себе другие слова, чтобы получить составное сказуемое:
be, become, keep и некоторые другие:

to become clever – становиться умным,

to keep well – держаться молодцом.

Некоторые глаголы могут одновременно относиться к разным группам глаголов (например, be, do, have), потому что способны выполнять в языке самые разнообразные функции. Более подробно о каждой из групп глаголов мы поговорим в отдельных статьях. Оставайтесь с нами!

Breaking the Myths of Language Learning

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Let us face it: nearly everyone has an item like “learn Spanish” or “do Rosetta Stone class” on their bucket list once in a while. When it comes to learning a foreign language, thousands of people around the world start procrastinating and quite often, they stubbornly stick to a popular myth in order to justify their inaction. I am sure you have heard each of the below statements before. Today we will see if they are credible or not.

Myth 1: “It’s a hard work, I can’t do it.”

When I was a high school graduate, I decided it was time for me to learn some adult life skills, so I took a 6-week contract as a farmer’s apprentice during my summer break (it was in 1982, in the USSR). I remember weeding onions from dawn to sunset along with a dozen of women-farmers, who could do the same job five times faster than me and were a way better adapted to doing it in the mid-summer heat. By the end of the very first day my back was aching like crazy and my hands were cut all over by the taut and elastic stems of weeds. That was a kind of job which I call a hard work.

Learning a foreign language is quite opposite to that. In fact, I wouldn’t call it a work at all. You only need to listen, read, watch and react to the obtained information. Because you don’t know many foreign words, your first reactions are simple: whenever you can understand a phrase, you try to respond with the help of hand movements, mimics, exclamations, gesturing, a bit of acting, etc. This simple activity is already the language learning, because when we communicate, this is exactly what we do: we send and receive portions of meaning to each other. This does not sound like a very hard work… and it isn’t.

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Myth 2: “Learning is boring, it always is.”

The process of learning a foreign language can be boring only to those who-

a) like being bored; or

b) are not motivated for learning,

but if you are well-motivated, you will love it!

To make it easy and captivating, start by setting a very simple goal: to exchange any meaningful units of information with other people. Take a dozen of simple words (for example, take the words: I, you, like, need, work, have, this, room, book, class) and practice putting them together into various combinations. Again, be sure to help yourself with mimics, gestures and any other internationally recognized patterns of non-verbal communication. Then, take another dozen of words, and another. After an hour of such practice you will see that you have learned nearly a hundred of words and – most importantly – you can put them together into simple sentences, which means that you can communicate! Was this boring? I don’t think so!

Every learning process stops being boring when you start doing it right, because it begins sending you signals that you are on the right way. Nothing can motivate a learner better than these little signs of success.

Myth 3: “One must have a talent for languages, I don’t have any”

You will have to believe me on this: you are already talented enough. As a language teacher with 25+ years of experience, I can certify: you do NOT need to have any special gift to learn a  foreign language.

You have somehow mastered your native language, haven’t you? This means that your brain is completely developed and prepared to learn more of the language material, no matter if this is your native language or a foreign one.

All people living on our planet have similar anatomy: one head, two hemispheres of the brain to process information, a tongue to be able to speak, a pair of ears for listening and a pair of eyes for watching your partner in dialogue. This fact makes us equal when it comes to learning anything new. In the beginning, you won’t even need to think or torture your brain by remembering stuff: just listen to others, repeat what they say, and copy their intonation… like all toddlers do when they try to communicate.

Learning a foreign language has very much in common with learning your first, native language: if you were smart enough to master that first one, then you are good enough to master another language.

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Myth 4: “To master a foreign language, I need a classroom.”

There are hundreds of life examples, which can break this myth within minutes. Quite often, people learn a new language without any classroom or coursebooks, simply by immersion in the so-called “language environment”. Our brain is a very flexible organ: it remains adaptable for study from early childhood to very old age; it can learn pretty well without coursebooks or grammar exercises. As soon as your brain receives an “imprint” of a new piece of information (for example, a new phrase which you hear someone say in a street), it imediately “sticks” the imprint to its meaning and puts this new element into a certain “memory cell”. No effort on your part is needed for this. Some classroom study can be helpful to those who need to be organized. Every language learning classroom aims to imitate real life situations to those who are separated from the language environment, but if you are lucky to have this environment around you every day, you can start speaking the new language much sooner than any classroom student.

In fact, our brain never stops to learn: you only need to open your mind, welcome the new knowledge and let it in, within the classroom or out of it.

Myth 5: “It is necessary to live in the country of the language.”

No, this isn’t a necessity at all. As we just mentioned above, your learning process can go  much faster if you live in the country of the language for a while, this is true, but living within the language environment is not a necessary condition for the language study.

Today, we are all lucky to live in the informational society. We have instant access to a whole virtual universe, called the Internet, at a single click of a finger. Why not use it as a medium for learning a foreign language?

You can use the Internet resources for reading, social networks for communication practice, video files for better memorizing, and occasional online sessions with a teacher to get your knowledge organized. Learning foreign languages becomes easier and easier every day now, so don’t waste your time deciding, just start it right away!

Myth 6: “Language learning requires lots of time, I don’t have it.”

The good news is: you don’t have to do hundreds of exercises or drill the rules of the new language for hours; it is enough to give it a few minutes a day, but regularly. Try to fill some gaps in your day-plan with listening practice, simple reading, or doing fun language exercises (a lot of which you can find on numerous Internet sites designed specifically for the language learners like you). Why not take a look into a mobile application while you are waiting for your car to be filled at the station? Or listen a passage or two of a simple story while jogging? Or find a random language lesson on Youtube when doing some housework? If you start with 10-15 minutes a day and turn it into a habit, you will soon enjoy the first results.

In the end, we always learn by ourselves, which means that no one but you are the master of your time and knowledge. If you can organize your time well enough, you will always find a few minutes for the language study. Those who feel that they need someone’s organizing hand, can find a teacher and take a few online classes to get the  general idea of the most effective ways to organize your learning process.

Myth 7: “I am too old for this; I will never learn.”

Growing older does not mean becoming incapable of learning new things. While there are some studies suggesting that children have an easier time learning a second language, no studies suggest there’s an age at which learning abilities disappear for good. So, let us put this myth to rest, too, and hink about another incentive instead: your age gives you some certain advantage in the form of life experience. You have been speaking your native language for quite some time, so your innate knowledge of its grammar and sounds will be helpful when trying to learn a new language from scratch.

Finally, let me tell you that I have been learning English for nearly half a century now, and of course, my English will never be perfect, because I have lived my life in the environment of anoher language, but this does not bother me much, because noone’s language is perfect! It really does not matter, how good, or fluent, or literate you are in a foreign language. The most important thing is to learn how to express your thoughts in it: the task which cannot be boring.

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English: the Lingua Franca of the World

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Historically, the term lingua franca was used to identify a bridge language, representing a mixture of Italian with French, Greek, Arabic, and Spanish, formerly used in the eastern Mediterranean. Today, the term has acquired a much wider meaning: lingua franca is a common language used as a means of global communication. We, people, have always needed it, but today, when the world’s population grows incredibly quickly along with the boosting development of communication technologies, the need for a language of global interaction has become crucial for our survival… and interestingly, it appeared by itself, without waiting for our global negotiation, memorandum signing, or approval. People have chosen English to be their “universal” language, and today this fact is accepted by everybody.

Currently, more than 350 millions of lucky guys around the world speak English as their native language, plus 430 million people are using it as the second language, and it is not difficult to find English speakers practically in all corners of the world. More and more frequently now, English is called the international language of business, science, politics, trade, academic world, journalism, travel, Internet, global press, and its influence continues to increase right at the moment, while I am writing these words.

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(These figures are of the year 2014)

But why is it English? It is not the most spoken language in the world. What makes it our lingua franca today?

Though the number of its speakers soars up with acceleration, it is native to 350 million, while there are 500 million of Spanish speakers, nearly 500 million of Hindustani (Hindi/Urdu) natives and 900 million of Mandarin Chinese speakers in the world. The main explanation of the reason why English has gained the status of the world’s lingua franca lies in its linguistic specificity. English is widely considered as a “simple” language which is relatively easy to pick up. It has no noun genders, no complicated morphology, no tone system, it is written in the Roman alphabet which is pretty good at accurately mapping sounds to symbols, and majority of the English learners agree that, due to its mathematically logical structure, it is relatively easy to build understandable phrases in it. Besides this, the prevalence of English-language movies, television programs, and Internet sites makes the language quite accessible to practice.

At the same time, English has an extensive vocabulary and a highly inconsistent spelling system, which can turn one’s learning process into nightmare. It also has hundreds of irregular verbs, some problematic sounds such as “th”, and a large inventory of vowels which can make it difficult for a foreigner to understand the native speakers of English. Still, representatives of many nations would rather prefer to take time and learn English rather than take up Mandarin, Hindustan, or Arabic, for example.

There is one more explanation of the role of English: a historical one. Generations ago, the United Kingdom became the first industrialized nation; the boosting development of technologies started from there and since then, the English speaking nations have pioneered in technologies and science. They managed to colonize the rest of the developing world far faster than other European countries. At some point, the British Empire covered a quarter of the globe at its largest, including North America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, much of West and Southern Africa, South Asia, and parts of South-East Asia. The UK set up English-speaking systems of government, industry, trade and business, which established English as the language of global power in the industrial era. In the 20th century we could see the transfer of power from one English-speaking expansionist to another: the USA’s cultural, economic, political, and military domination has also encouraged the process of global recognition of English as the most important and influential global language. Today, when the world has entered the informational stage of evolution, English has officially become the language of IT, meaning that its status of the global lingua franca has been reconfirmed, and it is unlikely to change any time soon.

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