Intimacy with History

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Approaches to history: study at a distance, study that brings familiarity, imagining, empathically feeling individual and collective experience, ?feeling systems and other intangibles?, self-awareness and testing for bias and distortion.

This has been my first day of German practice for the new year. I tried a few experiments.

Try to match spoken word to printed word. I listened to the recording of a German translation of a talk given in English (by a native German speaker). The talk covers subject matter that interests me. I had a script in German and tried to follow along with the spoken translation. I was marginally successful at best, couldn’t keep up. Almost every word was unfamiliar, plus I couldn’t differentiate when the translator ran spoken words together. But, even at that, I would catch a few words or I would jump ahead a few sentences when lost and then occasionally match a printed word to something spoken when it came along. There are some words that are similar in German and English. These words are my friends.

The talk included a guided meditation exercise. The translator slowed way down for this, and there were gaps of silence as well. This gave me the chance to match spoken and written words, which was satisfying and acceptable for a first run, even if I didn’t understand. In a way, this was a form of getting used to sounds, similar to a pre-verbal child hearing his or her native language in the surrounding environment. During the quiet gaps of the meditation, I read German words out loud and was surprised that I sounded vaguely Germanic (confirming my theory of preliminary sound acclimation). I’ll do this one again.

Try to match English script to German script. The plan was to read in English and see the same thing in German and begin to make sense of the relationship of words and meaning. This didn’t work out too well because this is educated, adult-level, fluent German and simply beyond my “starting from zero” capacity. Eventually, I took to typing German sentences into Google Translate. This allowed me to see that the verb often comes at the end of a German sentence. Something like, “At the end of the sentence, often the verb comes.” I probably won’t do this script-matching exercise for a while. I need more vocabulary and general familiarity.

Practice counting one to ten in German while lifting weights at the gym. With the help of my cheat sheet, this worked and I can remember most of the numbers. I don’t know that I’ll graduate to 20 reps per set, but I can start counting at 11 or 21, and thus increase my number knowledge.



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    December 8, 2015

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