Gazette n° 3: contents

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Gazette number 3 goes out tomorrow – very different from the first two as it’s all about language learning. The first text, A Writhing Mass (2915 words), was originally published in the creative non fiction section of Spilling Ink Review. It’s an account of my attempt to learn Burmese. (I still have hopes of achieving that but it seemed a bit odd to study Burmese in Mayotte, so I’ve started Shimaoré instead. Not that I’ve got very far with that either). Then there are three short stories in both English and French: The Case of the Missing Guide (1895 words), Believe in Yourself (1972 words) and Shopping with Sally (1783 words). These were written for French learners of English, but to a certain extent it should work the other way round as well. The idea was to take a selection of useful words in English (i.e. those which occur frequently) and incorporate them in a story. So in each story there are 80 target words, which originally were presented with translations and pictures as well as in the context of a sentence. On top of that the words are recycled from one story to another, thus increasing the chance of them being learnt.

This is an ongoing project, with 20 stories planned and only five done so far. Making up the stories isn’t so difficult – what’s harder is to include not just the target words but the words from previous stories to recycle. Still, maybe it’ll get finished one day. If anyone wants to participate in this project, give a shout! Or if you want to know more about the research behind it, don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact page.

There’ll only be one more issue after this, at least for a while. Not that I don’t have more material in preparation, but I’ve started the third draft of Perfume Island, and that requires the sort of concentration that can only come with sustained bouts of work. Sincere thanks to my subscribers!

Reading in a foreign language – beware!

I used to read a lot in French, not only for pleasure but because it improved my vocabulary. Now I read in English so as not to forget the words I already know. But the other day, a family moving back to the Metropole were selling their books, so we went over to see what they had. And there I came across Autoportrait de l’Auteur en Coureur de Fond (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) by Haruki Murakami. Now, I’m always up for anything he writes and since it’s translated from Japanese, it doesn’t matter if it’s in English or French. It isn’t a novel but an artful comparison between writing and long-distance running, and one immediate consequence was to remind me I need to get fit. So on went the trainers and tracksuit and off I trotted round the block, perfectly happy with my progress until boing! Some sort of muscle behind my knee that I never knew I had. So now I’m hobbling around like Long John Silver. Just thought I’d warn you – though reading in a foreign language may improve your vocabulary, it can have painful side effects.

Sunday Poem: Heli yangu nihuvhendzao

Capture gaucher

Here is a poem by Gaucher Pitsuri, teacher of our weekly Shimaoré language class. Since I don’t revise enough between classes, I wouldn’t understand it without the French translation provided, and for those who prefer, the English translation is below. But as much as the meaning of the words, I like the sound of them being read by Gaucher with such feeling.

My way of loving you: as when the clouds disperse, as when the dusk of a southern summer arrives, as when the moon’s first quarter appears,

My way of loving you: the soothing air brought by a fan, the calm and cool of the sea, the pupil’s application to learn embody my love for you

My way of loving you: he who doesn’t know you cannot know it, he who doesn’t see you cannot see it, he who doesn’t hear you cannot hear it, it is known only to the heart that feels it.

You have the serenity of Gandhi, the patience of Mandela, the empathy of Diana, the generosity of Mother Theresa, you soothe and quieten my heart. This is why I love you.

You are unique, comparable to no other, the hope of a better life, tranquillity, peace and offspring. God has heard my prayers, this is why I want to marry you.

My treasure, you and I, like the finger and the wedding ring, till death do us part, may God protect you and the hope that we will marry.