Found in Translation

By Amy Chavez
For The Bali Times

One of the things that amazes tourists when they arrive for the first time in Bali is how many languages many of the locals can speak. Not only do they know their native language; they also speak Indonesian, English and many times Spanish, German or Japanese. Indonesians are handy with languages and not afraid to learn yet another.
The motivation for learning foreign languages is perhaps that they are advantageous to doing business. The more people you can communicate with, the more tattoos, massages, guided tours, or toe rings you can sell.
Some people are better at this than others, however. Take Bakkah Stone, a store on the Ngurah Rai Bypass (also spelled Bakah Stone on their business card). As “Bakah” in Japanese means stupid, I don’t think many Japanese would care to buy stupid stone. In addition, although Mal Galeria is Indonesian for Galleria Mall, I doubt many Spanish people would want to go to a “bad gallery” of any sort.
Ah, the beautiful clash of languages!
Indeed, foreign languages are not exactly easy to learn. Which is why there are grammar books, conversation books, bilingual dictionaries, language-learning CDs, videos and even private teachers and language schools to help.
But as an ex-university English teacher with an MA in teaching English as a second language, I can tell you with some authority that English isn’t nearly as hard to learn as teachers and schools make it out to be. As a matter of fact, there are only a few simple rules to follow and the rest will come quite easily, just like learning to drive.
I’ll let you in on a few secrets. Allow me to share with you an excerpt from my unpublished book, Learning English: a manual.
Most people are lost when the English teacher starts introducing English sentence structure and the function of things like “direct objects” and “independent clauses.” I’ve whittled down these complex explanations into smaller, easier-to-digest bites of information.

Definitions of Commonly Misunderstood Grammatical Terms:

Dependent clauses: Santa’s kids.
Relative clauses: Santa’s in-laws.
Independent clauses: people who make a living acting like Santa.
Phonological: logical uses of the telephone.
Syntax: a tax on your sins.
Quantifiers: many fires.
Direct object: a baseball bat. Ex: “In self-defense, I fended off the komodo dragon with a baseball bat.”
Indirect object: fingernails. “In self-defense, I fended off the komodo dragon with my nails.”

Next, let’s look at the true meaning of various types of words related to English grammar. I spent many months researching this part of the book and have gleaned what are the most misunderstood parts of English grammar, cut out the difficult parts with a sashimi knife and have left just the basics in plain English for you.
Helping verbs: verbs such as “donate,” “contribute” and “cure.”
Adverb: a second verb added for emphasis. Ex: “No eating or snacking in the library.”
Adverbial: tending to add more verbs. Ex: “No eating, snacking, nibbling, chewing, chomping or scoffing down food in the library.”
Preverbal adverbs of frequency: frequent pondering, before you speak, on which verbs to add.
Intransitive verbs: verbs related to being in transit, such as “I ran to catch the bemo” or “I boarded the bus.”
Operative verbs: verbs that indicate surgery, such as “herniated” or “grafted.”
Phrasal verb: a verb acting like a phrase, such as “Go!”
Noun phrase: a noun acting like a phrase, such as “Thief!”
Collective nouns: words such as “stamps,” “coins” and “pet bottles.”
Possessives: words such as “devil” and “poltergeist.”
Reflexives: words such as “wince” and “funny bone.”
Articles: words found in the newspaper.
Copula: any word that suggests copulation, such as “X-rated,” “censored,” or “adults only.”
Gerunds: words borrowed from German.
Infinitives: words such as “etc.” or “ad nausea.”
Complements: words that occur together naturally, such as “food and drink.”
Preposition: words that suggest you are preparing for a job such as “apprentice” or “trainee.”
Conjunctions: phrases that suggest not stopping at junctions Ex: “to run a red light.”
Dangling modifier: words that suggest someone hasn’t made up his mind yet, such as “indecisive” or “fickle.”
Silent “e”: a shy “e” found at the end of words such as “demure.”
Conditional: words that refer to your physical condition such as “sick” or “tired.”
Object: any word that objects such as “Nonsense!” or “Bullocks!”

Now, the last thing to cover today is English verb tenses such as present, past and future. They are far simpler than one would imagine! I’d have to say that the tenses are the easiest part of the entire English language:

Present tense: Someone who is nervous about giving gifts.
Past tense: someone who used to be nervous but is now comfortable giving gifts.
Future tense: someone who has given so many gifts that they are nervous about giving more gifts.
Present progressive: the tendency to give more and more of your belongings away as gifts the longer one is in Indonesia.

See? Isn’t English a lot more fun than you thought?

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