June 13, 2010 | Greek
Limping and Lisping
I encounter a couple of pronunciation challenges in Greek.
It has been eight days since my last run. Grumpily, I went to midtown this morning to swim; this is all part of my cross-training plan, to give my injured heels a chance to heal. I hope it works, because otherwise I wouldn’t be getting in a pool. I am not much of a swimmer.
On my way home, I came across a street fair on Broadway, where I observed but did not come anywhere close to purchasing deep-fried Oreos.
Times Square This Morning
Street Fair: A New York Summer Staple
I took Pimsleur with me on my midtown journey (though not in the pool). There is one thing I am finding a little hard about Greek pronunciation, illustrated in this transliteration of a short, simple sentence: ThaEEthela naFOW. I have been informed by my Pimsleur lessons that it means, “I would like to eat.”
The two th sounds in it are like what you hear at the beginning of the word “think,” not the th of “then.” Every time I say this sentence, I feel as though I am lisping.
But I can’t figure out what exactly makes me feel that way, because it’s not as though th doesn’t exist in English. What about William Thackeray? Agatha Christie? And “earthy,” “ethical,” etc.?
Is it maybe the combination of th sounds in quick succession? Or just something weird about my own perception?
Whatever the issue, it’s a little painful for me to say this sentence. I find it awkward. I assume I’ll get used to it, but for now, it brings to mind a day back in second grade when a speech therapist suddenly came into my life. While all the other kids were out playing, she took me into an empty classroom and worked with me on my pronunciation of my s’s.
Apparently I had a lisp. And it was apparently a big enough deal to someone that someone else was assigned to help me get rid of it. (For which I am grateful; life is easier without a lisp.) I don’t think it took more than three meetings to get rid of the problem, but lisplike sounds, even in other languages, remain tricky for me.
Σορτς (Shorts, Specifically the Boyfriend Roll-Up from the Gap)
By the way, to complicate things, “shorts” in Greek is pronounced “sorts.”
It is really hard for me to drop the contribution of the h to that word. Saying “sorts” instead of “shorts” feels like a kind of lisp itself, or maybe an anti-lisp.
I had similar types of issues with certain sounds in Arabic and Korean. I just need to be mature about this and push through, or I may go hungry when I end up in Greece one day.