Falling Upon the Thorns of Language. Every Language.

It’s one thing to mess up in a foreign language.  And it’s quite another to do it in your own.

The Georgian language is its own language group.  Trust me, I’ve dabbled in enough to know: it’s unique.  Well, and I read what linguists tell me.  Ain’t no way knowing any other language can help one learn Georgian.

So when I made mistakes out yonder and felled nigh near everyone with my errors, I took it quite in stride.  Yes, maybe these were not my prouder moments, but they were, as they say, “teachable moments.”

Experience is the name men give their mistakes.

~ Oscar Wilde

Like the time I was in a hurtling minibus, full to the brim and beyond with villagers, and I meant to tell the driver I needed to get out.  In Georgia, you see, you travel precisely as far as you want to on a route, and then you yell, “Stop for me!”

Unless, of course, you’re me.  In which case you yell something more like:

“Stop me!  Stop me now!  Stop me here!  Stop me!”

As I said, these were not my brighter moments.

But in English, to err feels slightly dumber.  I mean, one has theoretically had years to cull words and expressions and to gain basic reading comprehension.  One ought not sound like one is speaking Georgian, then, you know?

When I was fifteen, I was selected to participate in a rather prestigious English competition of some sort.  (And yes, it’s worse when your mistake happens after you’ve been selected in hopes that you won’t embarrass your school in exactly such a way.)

We were asked to read a book and be ready to answer essay questions on the short stories within.  I was a voracious reader and wasn’t concerned at all.  Until I read the book.  Which was, I declare, full of the least interesting essays I’d ever read.  Mind you, these were travel essays, so it truly is almost unfathomable that I could have been bored so painfully, but I was.

My brain hurt with the effort of not revealing I’d found the stories almost uniformly insipid, uninspiring and turgid.  I was fifteen, and unaware that I was allowed to not like literature.  (I was also perhaps a mite judgmental.)

At any rate, all the shrouding of my true feelings must have exhausted every last gray cell, because I found myself suddenly, agonizingly unable to remember a rather basic word that I needed.  Believe it or not, considering how much I hated the book, I was looking for the word “awe-inspiring.”


So I squinted.  I screwed my eyes shut.  I breathed heavily and hit my forehead against my eraser.  And then I sadly wrote down:


Yeah.  Not just the wrong word, but pathetically spelled.

Needless to say, I wasn’t called back for any further rounds.  And thusly ended my short flirtation with literary prestige.  🙂

In My Defense:  The Georgian Alphabet

In My Defense: The Georgian Alphabet


About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. I've worked in international development, social justice and democracy work, and inclusivity training both domestically and overseas. I have served in Peace Corps, where I experienced my first Russian invasion, after which I volunteered with refugees and mentored youth. I vacation climbing minarets and mountains, as well as exploring theaters, museums and parks. Here in New York, I produce short films, direct short plays, and write.
This entry was posted in Elvish, Georgian, language, languages, mistakes, Republic of Georgia and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Falling Upon the Thorns of Language. Every Language.

  1. Yarnspnr says:

    Yes, it is sort of like Elvish. But then, hey. If you can conquer this Georgian stuff, no language will ever hold itself silent to you. Cool bus story. Enjoyed!

  2. Yarnspnr says:

    Good Gawd, how many languages can you speak? Write? But listen! If you ever need anything translated into Vigroth, I’m your guy! 🙂

    • sputnitsa says:

      Perfect. I knew I could find a Vigroth scholar out there somewhere! 🙂

      As for me, I love languages. I’ve studied seven seriously (one, Serbo-Croatian, has since managed to become three languages, but I still count it as one) apart from English. Plus Arabic, which I don’t count, as I only dabbled in it for a couple of weeks before realizing that I didn’t have the time necessary to commit to it. I do still have a Rosetta Stone of the language for the day when I’m finally ready.

      What about you–did your development of Vigroth originally start with music or with other languages? What language is most similar to it–or how does it sound to you?

  3. Yarnspnr says:

    Actually, it started with the words ‘hello’ or ‘hi’. The Vigroth word being ‘keita’. If any other language had an influence at all it would be German or Pennsylvania Dutch. For instance, ‘water’ is ‘watas’. Not really close, I know, but as close to another language that I get.

    I set down certain rules. For instance plurals used the root word with the addition of “in” at the end. So if ‘watas’ is water then ‘watasin’ is waters. Simple, no? Words ending in ‘ing’ used the root word ‘watas’ with ‘un’ at the end, ‘watasun’ for ‘watering’.

    Any word having to do with ‘water’ used a similar word to ‘watas’. So ‘rain’ is ‘waten’ and ‘pour’ is ‘watgo’ and ‘pool’ is ‘watlas’, ‘stream’ is ‘wata’ ‘sea’ is ‘cogiwatlan’ ‘swamp’ is ‘waserden’ ‘wet’ is ‘watay’. Even ‘boat’ becomes ‘watasted’. ‘Ship’ of course is ‘cogiwasted’ or ‘big boat’.

    To grow the language I had interviews with my Vigroth characters and translated Native American poetry into Vigroth. From this I learned the pace of native poetry so I could write my own. And I translated all the Vigroth poems into the Vigroth language.

    And so it came to be. N wan tey komad retzcom.

  4. Yarnspnr says:

    Sputnitsa: English (both American and British) is the only language I know so the syntax has to come from there. I can play with Pennsylvania Dutch and German words as well as a spattering of Latin and Spanish. Sentence structure is a mix between English and Pennsylvania Dutch.

    Beth: Thanks. Probably about ten years or so. It’s still a work in progress. When I find I need a new word, I hit my entomology books, find a root, make adjustments and go from there.

    • sputnitsa says:

      Very cool! 🙂

      It makes me wonder, suddenly, which known languages both Elvish and Klingon borrow from (syntax-wise). I understand that Esperanto was modeled on Turkish grammar, as it’s the most consistent.

      Linguists have such exciting work 🙂

      • Beth says:

        Quenya is based on Finnish, and Sindarin on Welsh. “The ‘Sindarin’, a Gray-Elven language, is in fact constructed deliberately to resemble Welsh phonologically and to have a relation to High-Elven similar to that existing between British (properly so-called) and Latin,” said Tolkien.

        As for Klingon, I have no idea.

  5. sputnitsa says:

    Oooooooooh! Dayum, Beth! You’re the woman in the know! 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

    • Beth says:

      You’re welcome!
      I have a book on Tolkien’s invented languages (that’s where the quote came from). It’s an interesting book. 🙂

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