reede, juuni 13, 2008

the good english

A little while ago I wrote a critique, chiding the Estonian government and media for the inaccessibility of quality English-language material in the global information market.

To be really honest, I sort of hate it when English-speakers whine about not being served in English wherever they go. Anyone who thinks they should be able to perform every function in a foreign country in the language of Her Majesty is kidding themselves. And even if you do manage, you are always putting the burden on others, you ungrateful sods.

On the other hand, English is useful. The Lennart Meri Conference in March was held exclusively in English, even though this is Estonia. I have been transcribing the remainder of conference as of late, and I was particularly impressed with the linguistic skills of Sven Mikser, who chairs the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs committee.

You should bear in mind that it is one of my objectives in life to obtain some fluency in the Estonian language. I practice everyday in various circumstances, and I try to broaden my source material by listening to boring Estonian radio programs in the car or watching talk shows on TV. The problem is that I don't think I'll ever be able to catch up with Mikser, who has probably been learning English since a relative gave him a contraband Thriller LP for his tenth birthday.*

Just check it out:

To draw in Iran, a little bit. I would say that there seems to be a marriage of convenience instead of love between Iran and Syria. The clique in Syria seems to be buying domestic legitimacy by trumpeting this almost extinct cause of Arab nationalism, which has given way to radical Islamism. But, by trying to lead the cause of Arab nationalism, it is actually deferring to non-Arab Tehran. So how do you see this axis evolving over the next couple of years?

Now, how the hell would I ever manage to say anything so eloquent in Estonian? "Marriage of convenience instead of love"? "Buying domestic legitimacy"? "Trumpeting this almost extinct cause of Arab nationalism"? Mind you, not "espousing" or "professing" or "endorsing," but "trumpeting"! Can you use the Estonian equivalent of the word for trumpet (trompet) as a verb? Kas keegi saab trompetada eesti keeles? On tõesti võimalik või?

I am not the only one who should be jealous of Mikser. Compared to Mikser, other Estonian politicians sound like the Swedish chef. They can only dream of one day being able to speak "the good English" as well as Mikser does. And I can only dream of being able to say something like that in eesti keel.

*As far as I know, Mikser did not receive Michael Jackson's Thriller for his birthday. I was just making that up, to show that, typically, foreigners have been learning my language longer than I have been learning theirs. Maybe he got a Lionel Ritchie album instead.

32 kommentaari:

Indrek ütles ...

If I wanted to estonianize the word trompeting I would go with trompeteerima / trompeteerida (Similar one is torpeedo (torpedo) - torpedeerima).
I have never heard anyone using it like that, but if someone does I think it will be understandable for most people.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Don't think too much about native speakers. There are countries like France, Germany, China, Japan, India (Kerala news provide often news in English about Estonia). To be heard you need an output in English. Especially as a small country. This is the minimum lesson from history in the last century.

Example: (about the film "Singing Revolution on movie screens in the U.S.)

"I said in my review that the film was one-sided, because surely there were deeply felt beliefs and angry resentments on both sides of the struggle. In America in the ’60s, the anti-war movement that started with folk songs led to outbreaks of violence, from both cops and protesters."

It is a bit out of context, but it shows.

Kristopher ütles ...

I get the sense the point of the post is not to get language advice, but I think "pasundama millestki" (bugling about sth) is the equivalent.

Estonian is an amazingly rich language, but on some counts it falls short. We don't have a distinction between "comfortable" and "convenient". That has always annoyed me. So you have Gore's documentary translated and it sounds like the truth itself has a sore arse and needs a mroe comfortable cushion.

And, going back to the conferemce transcript, Iran is a lovely country to draw in. I have a sketch of an old cobblestoned alley in Yazd that I love.

Doris ütles ...

"pasundama" is an often used Estonian word (from "pasun" - generic name for brass blowing instruments) for touting ones opinion very loudly. In Estnian though it has a more crass meaning than "trumpeteering" does in English, I think.

I haven't seen it happen with you, Giustino, but I find it very irritating when native speakers confuse "your" with "you're" and "its" with "it's". I would understand it for non-native speakers (have to think about it sometimes myself, and still get it wrong at times - usually with proper names. Is it "Mart's" for it belongs to Mart or should it be "Marts"? According to what I was taught it should be the second version but if I write that people get confused "why has Mart suddenly become Marts and why does this sentence not make sense?") but for natives it's just embarrassing.

Giustino ütles ...

Example: (about the film "Singing Revolution on movie screens in the U.S.)

Jens, the Western school of journalism believes that there must always be another viewpoint to counterbalance the other one in the story.

Therefore, even if almost nobody in Estonia votes for the Constitution Party, and they are as marginal as Communist Party USA, Western journalists will go interview them for the "other side" of the story.

Doris ütles ...

but... but... the Estonian side of the story IS the other side of the story next to the Berin Wall story and the Gorbachev story and the USA killed the USSR monster story!

Hansken ütles ...

I don't know if you know, but Mikser is an English philologist by profession. This is what he did (at Tartu University, was a junior lecturer or smth) before venturing gradually into politics. Back then he was still in Centre Party, now has found his 'true home' amongst social democrats.

Hansken ütles ...

We don't have a distinction between "comfortable" and "convenient". That has always annoyed me.

comfortable - mugav, mõnus

convenient - sobiv, käepärane, mugav

Rainer ütles ...

Sven Mikser has indeed undergone a near miraculous transformation from geeky Kesknoor into an astute and articulate politician. Although he still looks a little geeky... But who cares. Not every politician has to be a soave sex animal like Sarko, right?
Go Sven!

LPR ütles ...

Did he say it impromptu on the spot while the cameras were running, or did he have time to edit it in a supportive ambiance of his office in quiet and reflective solitude?

I'll pick up your challenge and try to put into Estonian. Not now. Still at work.

Bäckman ütles ...

It can be done, but only with fairly heavy use of "kurat". I'm not sure about "trumpet", but I think it is better to stress it more rather than less.

I have studied Estonian only for one year. Perhaps someone can improve.

BTW, I am not the Sven but the one who has commented before.

Aitab -- räägiks hoopis natuke Iraanist raisk. Ma ütlen teile ühte asja -- ärge pange pahaks. See, mis on Iraagi ja Süüria vahel, ei ole mingi armastussuhe, see on faking mugavuse kolmnurk. Vot. See kuradi Süüria on lausa trompetistiks muutunud, trompeteerides mingitel vana araabia rahvusmotiividel, tegelt on sellest ammu saanud mingi radikaalne saast. Tahab seda va araablaste värki müüa kohalikul turul, et teda võetaks tõsiselt. Suur rahvuslane -- on ta jee. Tegelt ajab Tehrani asja raisk. Noh, mis ta arvate, lillekesed, kuidas see telg siis lähiaastatel kujuneb?

Unknown ütles ...

We don't have a distinction between "comfortable" and "convenient".

There could be a lot more serious shortcomings to a language. For example the situation in (American) English is far more serious. How many different meanings of "fuck" are there? Swearing is a lot more important than the title of a propaganda movie to be honest. What kind of a blunt-minded nation can't think up words for swearing? That completely defies me.

LPR ütles ...

Listen to the words, those of who understand. I am from Türi. This song is for me. This is why I do not go there anymore after getting my skull cracked by local dressipükstes kiilaspead in 1995. It is a very depressing experience to be Estonian. I am having trouble shaking it off. Last week sitting in a jaccuzi and watching the sun set into the Pasific in San Diego, I was crying inside. All this beautiful world and look how we live back at home. I still call it home. I am an idiot. Rigth puu. Help me here. I am an idiot. Listen to the song.

LPR ütles ...

Better video yet

And these girls marry these guys. Unbelievable.

Dago has a good song about that on their Hiired Tuules CD.

Wv Sky ütles ...

I just returned from Estonia where I learned that my long time Estonian friend (female) is getting married to a Czech. She doesn't speak a word of Czech and he doesn't speak a word of Estonian, so they communicate by way of English (broken as it may be). So there's an example of how English can bring people together (although I'm not sure how the nuances will fare should they need to communicate feelings during rough times).

Giustino ütles ...

So there's an example of how English can bring people together (although I'm not sure how the nuances will fare should they need to communicate feelings during rough times).

It helps to know both languages in case you can't get your point across. Even then, in stressful situations, bilingual relationships can be tough.

martintg ütles ...

wv sky ütles...
I just returned from Estonia where I learned that my long time Estonian friend (female) is getting married to a Czech. She doesn't speak a word of Czech and he doesn't speak a word of Estonian, so they communicate by way of English (broken as it may be).

Naivety and the view that it is greener on the other side of the fence tends to drive these things. But from my own experience (had been married to a Belgian girl), these unions are difficult in the end. Either you or your partner has to leave home to live in another country, exciting at first, but as the years pass, one soon starts missing their friends and family left behind.

Giustino ütles ...

I think all relationships are tough in the end, regardless of language, location, etc.

The real dynamite in all human relationships, between spouses, families, and siblings, is not language or location: it is money.

Income and real estate, it destroys relationships, because person X gave a loan to person Y that they didn't pay back; or person A got screwed in the will by some back room manipulation by person B; or person D went into a business partnership with his brother-in-law on his wife's advice and got scammed in the end.

In the end, the bitter end, it all comes down to stuff.

Kristopher ütles ...

Thanks for that HH. I knew HU was pretty cool but didn't know she did social conscience music. I've never heard anything like that in Estonian -- topical songs that could be hits.

If you're from Türi, be thankful you're not from Paide next door, I would say, isn't it worse? Surely you must know that if you go more than 20 mi inland in California you can see some real grim examples of depressive redneck small towns?

Rainer ütles ...


"I still call it home. I am an idiot."

Well, the dresspükstes kiilaspead did a swell job, then.

But mind you, not all of us get beaten up by caracters mentioned above in the Eesti Türapealinn. Besides, it is a price little too high for soaking in a Californian jaccuzi later on.

Rainer ütles ...

And yes, Kristopher, Paide IS much worse.

The way people stare at you in the street: Who the f are you? What the f are you doing here? This is OUR f-ing town!!!

LPR ütles ...

yeah, Rainer, that's how it was in the pre-blogging days back then. Then you had to confront your opponents in real life and there was often a strong physical aspect to claryifying misunderstandigs of all sorts. Now it is so more civilized. Clinical and sterile compared to those days. But yeah, they certainly did a swell job. I'd like to thank Mr. Indrek Aasna and his entire entourage staff for administering a much needed therapy to me at no cost. That brief session helped to clear my head from so many questions and make important decisions in my life. See, in 1995 I was seriously considering returning to live in Estonia ... Had I not met these fine gentlemen, my life would most likely turned out to tending to my big-big peenar at our family house. I'd probably be an owner of a used bemm and have a small circle of friends who'd drop by for the regular early morning Sarvik ... But look at me now. So, yah. A swell job it was. Too bad Indrek's dead now. Heard it the other day. That's life folks. That's life.

Rainer ütles ...

Oh, Im so sorry to hear about the demise of old Ints... Do you know, how he passed on? Not through his own medicine, I hope.

Eppppp ütles ...

By the way, how good is Mart Laar`s English?

Giustino ütles ...

Mart is very expressive, but he makes the mistakes all Estonians make. He carries Estonian grammar rules into English:

Correct English: The process that is going on is extremely important.

Esto English: The process what is going on is extremely important.

Rainer ütles ...

Correct me if I'm wrong but Mart Laar's English sounds like this: "ai sink sätt siss is ö veri kuud sing" (I think that this is a very good thing)

LPR ütles ...

Hey, leave Malt alone. Malt Laal's English is good enough to get himself all kinds of international medals and honours on a monthly basis by now. Don't ask me how, but he pulls it off. Somehow. I can't do it. Need to practice that lisp some more I guess. Nagu öeldakse, tee järgi või maksa kinni. I gotta pay.

plasma-jack ütles ...

HH, here's one for you:

LPR ütles ...

Thanks. I knew that already. I've been keeping track on him as much as I can via the internet. Just to be sure, I'd like to see a similar official confirmation of his death though.

Then I could close his tab which I've been keeping open on his ass since 1995. I hope somebody else finished him off for me and I do not have to get wet.

Thanks though. If you got something else, please let me know.

He better be dead.

LPR ütles ...

Here's a bit on the same theme from recent Ekspress.

And you know what kills me the most? That these are Estonians doing it to Estonians. It's a fucking black-on-black crime Esto style!

I can't believe it. Is this a free country?

martintg ütles ...

hirnu-hrnx! ütles...
And you know what kills me the most? That these are Estonians doing it to Estonians. It's a fucking black-on-black crime Esto style!

It is a terrible thing to be beaten up by one of your own, but this kind of thing happens the world over. Go to any small economically depressed town in the USA or UK, and there is a likelihood of being assaulted by the local juvenile delinquent, just because they are bored and want some entertainment. Some people are simply bad, but don't let that stop you from returning, because the majority are good people.

LPR ütles ...

I know. It's just that I've become so removed from the Esto scene. I see a white person and I do not sense danger until I am already in a hand-to-hand combat. And half of me is still laughing that this must be a joke. Until the crush my cheekbone or smth.

So pardon me for being extra pissed of at my own people. Had they been Russians I'd be proud of taking one for the flag. Now I say, fuckit. Such people do not deserve anything better. Let them be fleeced by their own government. I'll stand at the sidelines and chuckle bitterly.