Lightbulb moment!

I read an article about Keira knightly who said that she was dyslexic but that they only found out a year into her schooling. This was because her mother read lots of books to her and it’s only when they came across new ones that problems were discovered. Keira had memorised them and that’s what I do with words.

It explains why I read everything in sight so this would not ever be an issue. My autism allows me to combat my dyslexia in a novel way but it’s still an acquired skill that can disappear if I’m not feeling top notch. I covered up my problems so well, that despite a few grammar issues that persisted throughout my education; nobody including myself ever thought I was dyslexic.

I only uncovered this with my attempts to learn Greek and the fact that I most certainly do not read in a normal manner. This causes lots of additional difficulties in Greek because of genderized conjugation. Grammar is also completely different and highly flexible. This requires a lot of attention to learn all of the spelling patterns and word pairings especially since I have sequencing issues due to my autism. The cases (dative, accusative etc) are a big thing here which is not quite so obvious in English. There is also the tonos to account for which isn’t present in English. Thank goodness they got rid of all the other accents and breathing marks from modern Greek that are still present in older styles of Greek.

As regards my reading I can sight read to pick up the gist of something but I may miss subtleties or I can read all of the words in a normalise fashion. I know when I’m tired as I’m reading words and there just not sinking in. They remain on the surface like bread floating on a pond instead of being submerged as they have absorbed water.

This also explains my difficulty with speech as there are so many different ways to pronounce a word and the right way depends on so many factors. Your country, age, education, class, the influence of those around you, the language(s) you speak and for what purpose you use them as well.

I have more difficulties with grammar and spelling now with the English language as well. Which is why it is helpful to write my blog as I continue to keep my level up. Without this constant practice I will certainly diminish my skill level.

Just like a muscle wastes away without use so does the skills that we learn throughout life and the abilities present in your brain. So keep active and keep positive. If you do the things that you enjoy even if your not initially good at them. This will cause neuronal growth and you will learn that activity. So nothing is impossible. As the saying goes, even the word says I’m possible.

Good wishes to you all,

Αγγελα (pronunciations produce all manner of spellings and there all right as Greek is a phonetic language.)

Mythos by Stephen Fry

I’ve been reading his retelling of the Greek myths and there even more fascinating that I expected. Most of us are raised on them so we know the principal gods and some of the adventures they got up to. This contains how all the different gods, goddesses, Titans, titanesses, nymphs, dryads and every other creature came to be. It gives their family tree, the stories of their birth and what they were responsible. It also explains how we get many of our words and how these words are also still present in the Greek language today. It’s written in a very amusing way that you would expect but also an intellectual one. A student of history or classics will love this just as a person studying languages, art, philosophy or just Greece and its people in general. It just goes to show that facts are forever reinterpreted by different cultures but that doesn’t stop them from being true. Or being based on real life events that previously we may have doubted since there only record was in religious texts. This is the best book I’ve read for a long time and I would most certainly recommend it.

Happiness comes from surprising places

I saw this and then I read it – it’s the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime. Followed shortly after by this as it’s on the adjacent page. I knew nothing of what it contained so it was a real joy that I could actually read this without resorting to Google translate.

The article starts with Penelope Cruz talking about what she thinks of what I now know to be world famous Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. This bit didn’t initially make sense so I had to read it a couple times and keep coming back to it. It makes sense when you realise Penelope Cruz is Spanish and he has worked in Spain. I read this in a rather bizarre manner hence this is constructed in a rather odd way. A bit like myself really.

Where an Iranian filmmaker Asgkar Faranti, is talking about his love for his home country Iran and how long it took for the film displayed in the picture of the article and that he has just been in; to be made. He mentions being lost and without purpose as he had stayed so many years away from his country of origin. As he had previously worked in the USA, Spain and Paris. He hopes you will understand his longing to make a film in his home environment.

The article goes into detail about the struggles the actor has faced trying to build his craft and get his catalogue of films to market. It hasn’t been easy due to the political situation but he has studied hard gaining a bachelors of art in 1998 that allowed him to pursue a dream that he created for himself when he was just 14 years old. He had previously had to satisfy himself by working on Iranian television but by 2006 had transformed Iranian cinematography with 4 films.

A win at the Cannes film festival and Oscar nod in 2012 has suddenly brought his discography into the limelight. He was the first from his country to win an Oscar for a foreign language movie. Which he repeated in 2017 with honours from the Berlin festival too. He believed it was so important to showcase everyday life in Iran. It has stories about how family life still goes on despite difficulties. For the longest time he was not able to work in Iran. It mentions Donald Trump too and his fear of Iranians that was quite an issue for himself in 2015. However since he is now the biggest artist in Iran, he has become a celebrity.

Άνγκελα (This is how Angela Merkel’s name was written in a recent newspaper report and it’s always said with a hard g sound).

Reading

Reading is very important for comprehension but also so is understanding. Reading is difficult for dyslexics of which they are many in both my own and married families. I’m starting to think that in my adopted language of Greek that I possibly have this too but not in the way that any of them have. You can also read in a hyperlexic way. While a dyslexic has an inability to read hence the term coming from 2 Greek words dys and lexic; a hyperlexic can very easily read and in fact will do quite quickly. It is this apparent ability that causes issues. The problem with a hyperlexic is that they don’t understand what they are reading. This is similar to how an autistic reads. They can do sight reading because that is just pattern recognition after all. This is another thing that is common across all 3 conditions. The ability for words to transform into hieroglyphs so you recognise the symbols (letters) but when they are combined in new ways, you don’t always get what they are trying to tell you in terms of content or pronunciation.

Autism is another word originating from the Greek language meaning self. As it’s a gendered language you have he, she it being auto, aute and autos. The strange thing here is with it being said afto, afte and Aftos. Then of course you have to factor in that it is a different alphabet with only 24 letters so not everything maps directly. This causes lots of issues with spelling etc as the above words are represented as αυτό, αυτή και αυτός. This is quite bewildering at first and will still get me on quite a frequent basis. It probably always will which is a pain but that’s life.

This is another article I did on the challenges of learning to read in another language The positive side.

Αντζελα (yet another way of writing my name in Greek that’s closest to the English pronunciation.)

The effect of accents on language

When you start delving into languages and linguistics you find that each language has its specific sounds. This means that it can be extraordinarily difficult to lose your native accent or to perfect a second language etc. This shouldn’t worry you too much if you have tried your best. It can in fact be a very attractive feature and one that sets you apart. Secure people like something that makes them different like a usp in products. However if there insecure they will seek to eliminate this facet of themselves and want to blend in completely.

One shouldn’t hide from their native accent or language. Many people sound completely different when they are speaking the languages that they know. This reflects there personality but also the experiences they have had when using that language. It showcases the values and attitudes of a culture too. Which is why people can act in a completely different manner depending on which way of life is currently in control. I have seen it happen and it’s fascinating to behold. If you haven’t come across this yet, there are polyglots who do exaggerated versions on YouTube. Or for more realistic versions check out videos where the person is teaching in one language and explaining in another. If your lucky, this might allow you to observe when they know English to fluency but it’s not their native language.

Certain sounds are easier to replicate than others hence junta is difficult because although it originates from Spain there is no j sound there. In other languages that also possess no j like Greek it becomes unta as there is nothing like that word. It also describes a dark period in recent history that nobody wishes to talk about which may also have something to do with its mispronunciation.

Perception

I recently wrote a fairy tale romance short story :-

A life of Halcyon Days

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07MWBZTCR/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_ujfsCb8KAF56Y

and to me it’s obvious who the characters are based on. I gave it to my husband to read as he knows the people who the story is based on. Yet, apart from the 2 characters who have the same name as I believe it’s fitting symbolically; he couldn’t figure out who they were. I didn’t think simply changing there name would obscure who they actually were. My mother in law also read it too and it got me thinking whether this was something to do with the dyslexic mindset as she knows the people too. It may also have something to do with theory of mind which is a very autistic thing. I do frequently think that because I know something and you have better skills regarding perception that you automatically also know what I’m thinking because I need to work on my poker face. It’s a pity Snape can’t give occumlanmency lessons to us all. For those that don’t know Harry Potter it’s the art of shielding your thoughts from others so they can’t read and manipulate you. Hence the reference to poker and body language. This is what I have struggled with because so much happens in daily life that if you really thought about it in the way I do; it would floor you. Hence I do have a certain amount of inertia at times. It’s about learning when to analyse the situation and how much depth you should go into. The trouble is you never initially know which level is required so if you spend insufficient time you may regret it later just like spending too much time. It’s a fine balancing act that you will never truly master but on the occasions you do, you will feel good. However on the opposite side, if you screw up, you will feel bad and be reluctant to try again until you have learnt the lessons inside of that particular episode.

Imprecise English is another thing that can start you off on a bad thought process as calling banking man’s work is immature and inappropriate nowadays. You should leave men to there financial discussion or deliberation instead as otherwise you open yourself up to such comments as go play with kittens. This is continual work for myself and for others around me as nobody is perfect. We’re all trying to do the best that we can do each and every day. Striving to improve but never able to reach the goal as the goal posts keep moving. Such is the march of progress.

The building block approach

Some languages suit a bottom up approach very well. Greek is one of these as so many of the worlds languages derive from this. It’s like a starter for 10 to borrow the famous phrase from Mastermind. Other later languages can be thought of as the bonus questions that get progressively harder and therefore more complex as the set is demonstrated.

I have a detailed, logical mind that likes order and so I like to break down terms to find out how they came to be. Greek is the best language for this as it is built very much like you would construct a model out of building blocks eg the world famous Lego.

I also seem to be good at abstraction and when I have understood something complex I can break down into something much simpler. A recent example of this is that I found out a friend is a mutual fund accountant . Now living outside of the USA, I had no clue as to what this was and Google wasn’t helping. After further explanation failed to clarify; since I discovered that I didn’t even know what a mutual fund was. I came up with the definition of a mutual fund accountant is a money farmer. I came to this conclusion because they take money from clients (seeds), they plant this into the ground (stocks, securities, bonds etc) and then they nurture their plants (clients money). If they find they don’t like a particular patch, (fund etc), they transplant it to somewhere else that seems to be more suitable. Then at maturation the plants are harvested and the produce handed over ( profits). Of course the plants could have died (loss of money) in the meantime but mainly they survive and become healthy (well performing portfolio).

I find if I use unusual metaphors that helps complex terms to stick in my memory much better. I am a visual person so need such pictures to illustrate financial and mathematical concepts. I hope you find my painting with words useful for your comprehension too.

The mechanics and science behind language learning

Now I’m sorry but this is going to be a slightly technical article based on neuroscience and psychology but I believe if we understand the underpinnings of how we learnt and the children of the world learn their first language then this will be able to empower us to learn any language that we wish to in our adult lives.

For those including myself who wonder why everyone in the world talks to a baby in a very babyish manner. It is because that babies become very disinterested in normal speech very quickly. To anyone who has children or been in contact with them this may seem obvious but the why is the interesting bit here. Neuroscientists conducted experiments using the latest brain scanning techniques on young children assisted by paediatricians and they found that the pitch, the rhythm and the sound was what the babies were responding to. If it was slow, repetitive and lyrical then it kept there attention hence lullabies work. However, normal speech is rather flat and unemotional as we tend not to accent our words. Especially not in English, in our normal accent.

This is also why babies like music as it’s soothing to them and then like to dance. If we harness this native ability through song or movies then we are broadening our exposure to sounds that would not normally be part of our soundscape. Babies can distinguish the difference between all the sounds in the world and this is how they can learn any language of the world. This magical opportunity starts to be pruned back by 12 months as they are now learning what sounds make up their native language and to exclude all others. They still continue to about 8 years old to be easily pick up a language. Do not despair though due to recent advances in brain imaging and other experiments that have been exploring the human brain; they have found brand new neurons growing in adult brains. This previously undiscovered neurogenesis is astonishing as it demonstrates along with neuroplasticity the capability of the adult brain to change, regrow and develop in ways that were thought not possible until very recently. Therefore your brain is more malleable than you think it is. It is not set in stone when you become an adult. You can improve any of your previously learnt skills and learn new ones well into your later years.

Literature

I am a keen reader of books of all kinds as I love words. This makes it fitting that I also have a love of the Greek language as so many words in the English language originate from there. In a bid to help me learn all about the Greek culture I read every book and watch every movie that I can get my hands on to further my knowledge of this fascinating culture.

To acquire this bounty it includes such classics as Zorba the Greek (book and movie), as well as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres (so far only the movie); and some of the vast media catalogue on the Durell’s for instance, the TV show about their lives as a family on Corfu and books like The Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by Lawrence or the well known My Family and Animals by Gerald. However, no list could be complete without also adding in more recent books like all of Victoria Hislop‘s books and to have another Greek point of view, I’m going to start on Panos Kanezis books, The Maze etc shortly.

I can usually be found with my head stuck in a book and since I read at an astonishingly quick pace if the book is well written, I’m soon to be found in want of a person to tell them all about the book I just devoured with great relish. These are my latest interests but I do have a book on how Virginia Woolf et al fought to learn the Greek language as it was the language of the learned people and an anthology of Greek poetry from the last 2000 years as Lefkás has Sappho and the poet Aristotle Valaoritis island nearby and his shrine.

I wish to have a balanced viewpoint of people and their cultures through time hence there are books by the English living in Corfu and various other Greek Islands from the 30’s-50s (Durell’s), some of whom could speak Greek (Lawrence in particular) but there is also Victoria Hislop who has written on many aspects of Greek life as she can also speak Greek. It helps to lend an authentic air to her stories when you know she has mixed with the locals to gain inspiration for her stories. There is nothing quite like reading a Nikos Kazantzakis novel though with the gravitas that he lends to his writing. It is truly a spectacular talent that he had as he lifted all that read his masterpieces to a higher plane of thought. There should be greater appreciation of his work outside of his native lands but if I praise him too much that means the books will go up in price and I will not be able to buy them so cheaply anymore 😉

Best wishes

Angela