July 7, 2010 | Greek

On “Please” and “Thank You”

It feels funny to use the same Greek word for "please" and "thank you."

I am happy to be in the second level of Rosetta Stone. It is a relief to be out of Level 1. I don’t really like being in the beginning level of anything. One level down, two to go.

East 6th Street Track, With View of East River

East 6th Street Track, With View of East River

Irrelevantly, this photo is of the track where my running team often works out. I did Pimsleur on the way there tonight, then helped time runners on 400-meter laps. It was fun, but I experienced a major bout of running envy a short time later.

Enough of my whining, though, and back to Greek.

One thing I have been finding with Greek is that syllable stress is often not where I expect it to be. Take θέατρο, for example—the word for “theater”—which is pronounced THAY-ah-tro. It is hard to remember to put the stress on the first syllable; my instinct screams out to put it on the second, and I keep saying thay-AH-tro by mistake.

The fact that the stress also happens to fall on the first syllable in English—THE-uh-tur—somehow doesn’t affect my expectations or inclinations. In every other language I can think of with similar-sounding words for “theater,” the stress ends up being on the second syllable. For example:

  • Spanish: teatro
  • Italian: teatro
  • Russian: театр
  • German: Theater
  • French: théâtre

Given the surprises in Greek syllable stress, it’s a good thing they write all their words with accent marks. But then of course I have to remember to put those in when I am writing, which amounts to a lot of extra learning.

Returning to the subject of Rosetta Stone: now that I am in shiny new level 2, I am really enjoying myself. New vocabulary, more advanced feel, plus in various ways I am seeing more intersections between it and Pimsleur and my books. It’s coming together for me more now.

Also, there’s another development that I feel rather pleased about, concerning my reading skills.

Rosetta Stone often plays audio clips for you of sentences that you are then supposed to repeat. Most of the time, the sentence you are hearing appears simultaneously on the screen in Greek. Until recently, most of the time I couldn’t read the Greek fast enough for the written version of a sentence to be all that helpful, which meant I had to hold the sounds in my head and try to reproduce them without a visual prompt.

My Teammates Running Laps Tonight; Irrelevant, I Know, But I Think It's a Nice Image

My Teammates Running Laps Tonight; Irrelevant, I Know, But I Think It’s a Nice Image

I am, as I have said, a very visual learner, so that was hard for me.

Now, though, I can pretty much read the Greek off the screen, so I no longer have to hold so much oral content in my brain at a time.

It is a relief. Plus I feel kind of proud.

From Rosetta Stone I have now learned that you can use παρακαλώ, pronounced paraka-LO, for “you’re welcome.” I didn’t know that. Previously I had learned it only as the word for “please.”

This is not the first language I’ve encountered where you can use the same word for “please” and “you’re welcome.” German is the same way with the word bitte.

As a native English speaker, I find the overlap funny, because in conversation it feels as though you end up saying something like, please may I have X, then you offer up a thank-you upon receipt of X, and then the same word you just used for “please” returns as “you’re welcome.” It feels like an endless cycle of please-thank you-please. As if I am handing someone something they want and yet they just keep begging me for more!

There is one thing I keep wondering about Rosetta Stone TOTALe. It is a web-based application, and there is a lot of speaking into a microphone on the user’s end, which sounds are then evaluated by Rosetta Stone’s software and deemed correct or incorrect. Do any of those sound files get saved or listened to?

And if so, what if someone farts or burps during the language-learning process? How embarrassing would that be?! I am guessing they can’t possibly save them, but I keep wondering…

Post a Comment