Position: 38° 43′ 20” N 9° 8′ 21” W
‘Arrigato!’, called Carol as she waved cheerfully to the chap who just delivered our morning bread. Berthed as we were in Porto, I’m sure she meant to say, obrigado. In Lisbon a few weeks later, the district of Belém becomes Bedlam, and Alfarma, Amalfi.
Carol and I learn very differently. I’m primarily a visual learner, backed up by lots of reading with an integration of parts applied to a specific problem. Carol, we once agreed, is primarily a kinesthetic learner – meaning she has to experience things before they stick in her mind. Theories like not jamming down on the front brake of your bike or you’ll go arse over teakettle, are best memorized through practice. Kinesthetic learners, armed with such a theory, will make a couple of endos and break a few bones before said theory becomes retained knowledge.
We are now four major languages into our travels. Keeping them oriented in our seniority is just part of the fun. In the Caribbean we hacked French and Spanish. In the Azores it was Portuguese, while in Britain it was, well, English in all its various forms. There is good news for English speakers. Not only is English now the world’s lingua Franca, at least 50% of the words are taken from Latin based languages like French and Spanish. The rest, barring a few neologisms, are Germanic. Armed with that knowledge, barriers to speaking the three major continental languages can be hurdled.
As for learning languages, Carol adapts well to word association. Take Santiago de Compostella. Carol’s pronounciation of Comtadella was rendered more accurately when she thought of ‘compost-teller’. Then, if all else fails, there is the universal language of pointing and smiling, or its modern equivalent: speaking into a translation app on your smartphone. Voice recognition and translation is now so good it’s possible to carry on a reasonably sensible conversation in (almost) real time. At least until the booze kicks in when everyone understands each other anyway.