Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Tenses and Tense-facilities

The Bad Obwarzanki Lady is taking her revenge by going on a long, relaxing holiday somewhere sunny. I can just see her now, stretched out by a mountain lake, or on a beach in Bulgaria, sipping pina colada from a coconut. Her kiosk remains smugly closed.

Meanwhile, I am speechless in the face of the new vistas spread in front of me last night.
At the language school, finally, we have learnt the Past Tense.

Był rewelacja...

Now, at last, I can tell people what I did at the weekend, what I did yesterday, what the weather was like this morning, what You Did Last Summer, what he, she or it did in the Planty the Friday before last, whom Ewa Nowak met in the lobby of the Hotel Bristol, and so on.
Kraków watch out! Now I'm supplied with conversation for all situations!
Of course first I actually have to do something at the weekend, starting with leaving the house without getting my heel stuck in a patch of melting asphalt in the path of an oncoming tram. Panic all round.

On the subject of tenses, what is the matter with British phrasebooks? Do I really need to use the conditional to book sushi for two at eight thirty? (complicated enough remembering to book it for 'half to nine' rather than 'past eight': up until our arrival I was certain that we would be either an hour too late or too early). Is English the only language where you need to pussyfoot around with 'I would like to...' or 'could I please?' or 'should I?'? I'm sure for the first few weeks of my first ever trip to France (nervous British Council language assistant in deepest, dampest Brittany), the French were snickering through their Gitanes at my insistence on taking half an hour to order anything. I blame my A-level French teacher, who decided we were going to get A grades one way or another and made us squeeze extra subjunctives into our oral presentations until they were bursting at the seams with 'quoique' and 'pour autant que je sache'.
In Italy, you can happily lope across the road to your local bakery and demand Two Rolls and a kilo of schiacciata from the fornaio without anyone batting an eyelid (except possibly at your gargantuan appetites. But trust me, the schiacciata is worth it). If you start babbling out conditionals, they will assume you come from the North (or the South, depending on which end of the country you are in), or worse still, that you are taking the proverbial. Very dangerous to do in small, family-run bakeries in Sicily...

Why complicate things for us, Mr Berlitz? Especially in Polish, where you really don't need to...

And finally: we are starting to adjust to the new office equipment. There is a vast printer in the corner squatting sulkily on a fragile-looking Ikea bedside table. I have remembered how frustrating administrative tasks can be. This morning, the inky beast stubbornly refused to feed paper from the paper tray. My boss consulted the manual aloud:
- 'To clear paper jam...
- hmm?
- Please pull jammed paper out of tray.'

Easier said than done, and definitely better to watch...

[the author of this blog would like to apologise, wholeheartedly, for the awful title. She wanted to call it 'Tense and Tent-stability', but didn't have any good tent stories handy. Maybe another time]

1 comment:

Becca said...

Hang in there! The past tense opens up a whole load of possibilities, as you have already experienced :) I've been here two years. Believe me, the first six months of Polish are the worst. Stick at it, and you'll be chatting away with the best of them! Find lots of Poles to practise with though, that's the secret.