Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Working on my roots

When I turned ten, I defined sophistication as the ability to successfully harbor candy in your purse. My grandmother has that gift, but I thought I never would. Unscabbed knees and manicured nails, a pack of almost full peppermint lifesavers in my pocketbook - on the advent of adulthood and my first double digit birthday I couldn’t imagine a time when I might reach a level of maturity and self control able to pull off all three. Twenty some years later, my knees stay unscathed, and I don’t bite my nails any more, but I’m still not very good at approaching candy or life one tasty tidbit at a time. I don’t have the patience and when it comes down to it, I don’t really have that type of long term attention span.

So when I revved up another one of my New Year’s resolution this week (to learn more Czech by practicing it a little each day) I had to hold myself back from jumping in and trying to memorize a chapter of words. I decreed I’d learn one word per day, and then I tried to choose a word, the first word for my list.

Ceskenoviny.cz stood in as my rosetta stone. I skimmed through several stories, trying to find a common word, something I could use in daily life and hear with regularity, something worth focusing on for one whole day. I finally picked snížit because it showed up several times in a row, and I like a word with a z in it. Thirty seconds later, I’d typed snížit = to decrease, lower into my word list, and I was done. One word seemed a tiny, futile step towards improving my Czech and resolving my resolutions. I wanted another word, something more substantial. Reaching for my dictionary, I realized I was once again about to pull the bubble gum pack from my pocket and chew through it all in one sitting.

Then I noticed three letters buried in snížit: niz. Niz - its root. I wrote a new decree in my head (one root per day), and then, my sweet tooth for words on the way to being sated, settled down to foxing out some of niz’s relations.

snížit = decrease
nízký = low
nízce = basely
nižší = lower
Nizozemsko = the Netherlands

3 comments:

tuckova said...

Show off.

No, actually, this is a good idea. Just remember that you have RETOUCH YOUR ROOTS periodically. Which is my problem. No problem learning, but some serious problems with retaining.

Sometimes I think I'm going to just hack it all off and start fresh.

Julia said...

Every six weeks or so sound about right? And how many roots are worth a thousand words?

Karla said...

When I think of all those roots I should be retouching... all that half-forgotten vocabulary...

Maybe your words will stick for me.