A Lesson in Education

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I had an unusual linguistic upbringing. Growing up, I heard mostly Greek at home (I spoke a mix of Greek and English). I also lived in a French province for the first nine years of my life. When I started school, it was at an English school, with French lessons starting in grade 1 (we eventually moved to an anglophone province, and I continued taking French until I graduated). My mom taught me the basics in Greek, and I had a very small amount of Greek school on weekends (I don’t think it amounted to a full year).

I never heard French at home, except when flipping past the French channels on TV. I never had anyone to speak French with outside of classes, and I only occasionally read anything in French. But I heard Greek constantly, spoke it often, and read and wrote it occasionally. I’d have conversations all the time with older relatives (granted, they did most of the talking, but I still felt I had a solid grasp of Greek). If anyone asked I would have said I was fluent in Greek and knew some French.

Then I decided to take lessons.

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I had a language learning app taking up space on my phone, so I finally decided to give it a try to see if it was worth hanging on to. I chose French as the language to learn since I’d been wanting to improve my skills for a while. The app starts off by testing you to see how much you know. I breezed through the test and got to skip ahead to more advanced lessons. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I remembered and how easy much of it was (that said– keeping track of the gender of words and then adjusting all the words in a sentence accordingly is exhausting).

L’homme est canadien (the man is Canadian)
La femme est canadienne (the woman is Canadian)
Les hommes sont canadiens (the men are Canadian)
Les femmes sont canadiennes (the women are Canadian)*

 

(*These aren’t even the most complicated examples– wait until you need to start describing inanimate objects…)

It was great to find out that I wasn’t as bad at French as I thought. And since it was going so well, I decided I’d might as well improve my Greek while I was at it.

Considering Greek is technically my first language (I started picking up English as a toddler), that initial test was not as easy as I expected. Unlike with French, I did not get to skip ahead to more advanced lessons. I discovered I didn’t even know some basics– my vocabulary and spelling are much worse than I realized (but at least my conjugation is good).

After a few minutes on the app, I realized I knew only some Greek and quite a bit more French than I’d assumed. Not what I expected.

It turns out the formal French lessons that I had in school made an impression that’s stuck with me decades later. Meanwhile, learning Greek mostly by “osmosis” let me down. There’s something positive to be said about rote learning and formal education, after all.

My years of absorbing Greek haven’t totally gone to waste. The knowledge I’ve picked up has definitely made the app lessons easier (I’m seriously impressed by anyone who can learn this language from scratch). Since starting the lessons, however, I’ve already seen a major improvement, especially in spelling, vocabulary, and reading. I’m probably only up to an Elementary School level of proficiency so far,  but I finally feel that I’m getting a real grasp on the language I’ve known all my life.

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As someone who’s always been more inclined to learn on my own rather than take a class, this has been eye opening. It’s amazing the difference that actual lessons can make. I’m excited to keep using the app, not only to keep learning French and Greek, but also to expand on my two years of high-school Spanish, and– hopefully– to learn a new language or two. The next time I’m tempted to learn something new, I think I’m going to find a class to take instead of assuming I can figure it out myself.

How about you– have you taken any classes lately, or are there any you want to take? Share in the comments…

Find out what I can do with language (including a bit of French) by getting my books 🙂

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas, Blood Magic by Aspasia S. Bissas, Tooth & Claw by Aspasia S. Bissas, books, free books, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, gothic, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Currently Reading

Currently Reading, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Back to Discworld…

I also wanted to comment on This Charming Man, now that I’ve re-read it.

Currently Reading, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

In my post where I shared that I was about to re-read this book, I said I’d forgotten a lot of the details since I last read it. Well, it turns out I’d forgotten almost everything about it. I remembered This Charming Man as being mostly fun with a satisfying ending. I’ve since learned I can’t trust my memory. Like, at all. The book is well written and compelling, and there’s humour too, but it’s actually quite dark and difficult to read at times because of that. It goes into painful detail on violence against women, abusive relationships, and alcoholism (all important topics, but emotionally draining, to say the least*). I also noticed there was a fair bit of fat shaming (ugh), and some less-than-enlightened comments about “trannies.” It was published in 2008 and parts of it have clearly not aged well. It did have a satisfying ending, though, so at least I got that right.

What are you reading these days? Have you ever re-read a book and realized it was completely different from what you remembered? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

(P.S. If you want to see what else I’ve read, check out my Goodreads page.)

Writing Collab #19: Echoes

Writing Collab #19: Echoes, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
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It’s been a while since we last put something together, but Peter Wyn Mosey and I are back with a new poetry collaboration. Here’s my piece:

Echoes

There are whispers that crash

like screams;

You used to understand that

before you disappeared

into someone else’s tattered dreams.

And there are screams that come out

as silence;

I had to learn that

when your absence started feeling like violence.

There’s too much of you left

to let me break free;

Woven, twisted,

tangled through my thoughts;

I’m echoes held together by memory.

 

Read Peter’s response piece here and let him know what you think (make sure to follow his blog too!)

 

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Cover Reveal: Go!

The moment has finally arrived to share the cover of my new (FREE) short story, Tooth & Claw

Tooth & Claw, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas

What do you think?

The title comes from the Tennyson poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.”:

Who trusted God was love indeed

And love Creation’s final law

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw,

With ravine, shriek’d against his creed

“Red in tooth and claw” indeed. I think both the cover image and title suit the story–I hope you’ll agree once you’ve read it. Tooth & Claw will be released on 7 September. Here’s a teaser:

Mara, Dominic, and their fellow vampires arrive in Marseille, France in 1909, only to find another predator already on the loose. As the city tries to cope with a killer stalking the streets, Mara struggles to separate memory from delusion. Can she find peace when the past is haunting, the present overwhelming, and the future hopeless? Inspired by real events.
Although I promised you’d be able to pre-order Tooth & Claw, it turns out free books can’t be set up for pre-order (boo). But not to worry, I will be posting again to let you know when Tooth & Claw is available. If you’d like an email reminder, please drop me a line.
In the meantime, don’t forget to download my other FREE short story Blood Magic, and while you’re at it, pick up Love Lies Bleeding too, available in paperback or e-book. Your support is much appreciated.

Tooth & Claw, a new FREE short story inspired by actual events, available 7 September.

Cheers,
Aspasía S. Bissas

All Memories Are Everything

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I just read an interesting article in the Atlantic about why we can’t remember most of what we read (or watch), something that, according to the article, has irritated people at least since Plato. I thought it was just me that had an issue with recollection. I still can’t accurately quote passages (or even lines) from books I’ve read half a dozen times. Sometimes I have trouble remembering a specific fact (like a name or date) right after I finish reading about it. The article explains that this happens because we’ve traded “recall” memory for “recognition” memory; in other words, we don’t remember details because we know we can look them up in an external memory bank (a book, DVD, or website, for example).

While it can be frustrating not to be able to recall something you just read, I can see a few advantages to favouring recognition memory (with external memory banks) over recall. A non-writing culture where stories are memorized and passed down verbally would be continuously at risk of losing those stories. All you need is a little chaos in the system to take the priority off memorizing or passing down information. Nobody is going to be thinking about passing on verbal traditions in the midst of a plague, war, or famine. Without a written record to preserve information, it can easily be lost forever.

When stories are passed down verbally, there’s also the ongoing risk of “broken telephone.” Over time and re-telling, parts will be changed or forgotten, in some cases, perhaps, deliberately, to suit the teller’s preferences. That can, of course, happen with books, as well. But with a book, there’s usually an early version to be found and consulted. You can’t ask someone long dead to recite you their version of a story.

On a personal level, it can actually be a good thing to forget a book you read and enjoyed. It gives you the opportunity to go back later and read it again “for the first time.” Maybe you’ll find the memories flooding back, making the re-reading experience something like a happy reunion. Or maybe you’ll really have forgotten, giving you the rare chance to enjoy it all over again, as if you’d never read the story before.

One line at the end of the Atlantic’s article leaves me feeling that the way our minds work is something quite lovely.  While maybe it would be more convenient or impressive if memories were clean facts that could be extracted at will, the article states that instead, “all memories are everything.” Humans aren’t data banks. We aren’t discrete segments of information and experiences that can be added or deleted. We are made up of bits and pieces that merge together and form a whole. Everything we’ve read and seen and done is part of us, even if we can’t always dip into our memories and pull a piece out. That is wonderful and terrifying and so completely perfect. I don’t know about anyone else, but I wouldn’t trade that for perfect recall.

What do you think?

(Note: This is a re-post from 27 January 2018. If you’re looking for something new to read, how about my free short story “Blood Magic”: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/816146)