Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

latin joint April 24, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Pondering,Teaching — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:27 am
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You know, Latin fascinates me. I remember a verse in an autograph book I once had, “Latin is a dead language it’s plain enough to see. It killed off all the Romans, and now it’s killing me.” I never had the opportunity to study Latin, but I have studied French, Spanish and Italian at various degrees of seriousness, and so I make a lot of connections between Latin root words in those Roman languages, and of course in English as well.

Take the word “iugo” for example. It doesn’t have just a couple meanings, as would be likely if it was an English word.  Iugo covers a concept rather thoroughly. Consider that it means,
kind of profound isn’t it? Someday maybe I’ll really study Latin, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the Google translator and make the best of it.

Oh, if you’re trying figure how this connects to Grace Awakening, Iugo is the surname of Concordia in the books.  Concordia is the Roman goddess of marital harmony.  (I’ve told you before all the names in your books are chosen for a reason…)


Grace February 28, 2011

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Literature,Pondering — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:30 am
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In Grace something is transcended, once and for all overcome. Grace happens in spite of something; it happens in spite of separateness and alienation. Grace means that life is once again united with life, self is reconciled with self. Grace transforms fate into a meaningful vocation. It transforms guilt to trust and courage. The word …grace has something triumphant in it.    ~Yrjö Kallinen

I found this quote on the Facebook status of friend who works at the UN. Aside from the concept of grace which is so beautifully explored here, I am fascinated that it was written by a Finn.  If Yrjö Kallinen was writing this in Finnish, it opens up another interesting language exploration, as there isn’t a single word for ‘grace’ in Finnish.  Perhaps Kallinen was thinking of gratia as there is a bit of the wealth of gratia gratium parit reflected here.

I want to know more about this.  If you know where this quote is from, please leave a comment so I can explore more.

Kiitos Yrjö!

Addendum:  March 1, 2011

I found this clip of Kallinen.  He’s speaking Finnish, and so the majority of you will have to read the sub-titles, but if you’re curious to hear his lovely clear enunciation that even I can make sense of have a listen.  Apparently Kallinen was a pacifist and conscientious objector who nonetheless was Finland’s Minister of Defence from 1946-48.  He is speaking about life and dreams and how to revolutionize thinking.  Quite apropos to what is happening in the Middle East at the moment.

Elämmekö unessa? (Are we living in a dream) pt 2 – 1 Translation(s) | dotSUB.


language & brain May 23, 2010

The ability to speak a second language isn’t the only thing that distinguishes bilingual people from their monolingual counterparts—their brains work differently, too. … A new study published in Psychological Science reveals that knowledge of a second language—even one learned in adolescence—affects how people read in their native tongue. The findings suggest that after learning a second language, people never look at words the same way again. 

Wenner, Melinda. “The Neural Advantage of Speaking 2 Languages.” Scientific American Mind.  January 2010.

Melinda Wenner’s article in Scientific American fascinates me for many reasons.  I have friends whose children were born in bilingual environments, and it has always amazed me how  fluidly these children move between languages.  It has frequently been observed that students in French Immersion tend to be among the strongest in the school. Is this because they were already so, or have their brains been improved by second language learning?

I started learning my second language (French) when I was in grade 4.  I loved it!  It was like learning a special code, with the advantage that other people around the word could understand it, too.  In grade 12 I added a Spanish course and did very well at that at the time but, unfortunately before I could solidify it, I headed off as an exchange student to Finland, and before long even French was a struggle as my brain re-tuned to Finnish instead.  I was in awe of the students in my Finnish class.  We were the language stream, and besides Finnish (‘Äidenkieli’ or ‘mother tongue’) they took courses in Swedish, English, German, French and/or Russian.  How on earth did they manage it?  By third rotation when we came back to French class I couldn’t speak it properly anymore (I could read and understand without difficulty, but the Finnish pushed the French out of the  speaking centre).  Happily, both French and Finnish happily co-reside in my brain these days.  

While I was learning Italian earlier this year, I kept finding connections to other words I knew in Spanish, French or English which led to epiphanies of word meaning.   One epiphany resulted from learning the Italian word nebia which means fog.  Suddenly I had a whole new understanding of the English word nebulous.  While pulling on a door and reading the French tirer (to pull) I realised the connection to the word on Italian doors: tirare.  Do these words relate to the English verb to tire?  After all, it’s exhausting work to be pulling something.  What about the Italian word for ‘left’ sinistra?  The underhanded swordsman using the left hand was definitely sinister to his opponents.  All these additional layers of meaning start appearing as you read when you know other languages.

When one learns another language, or particularly several other languages, one begins to see the complex web that strings them together. If one opens up to the conceptual words that we don’t have in English, our world view expands even further.  For example, Finnish has the word sisu which connotes pride, courage, and fortitude.  The Finns claim sisu is what allowed them to decimate the Russians with 10:1 losses and led to  the only war-time settlement the Russians ever negotiated to stop the Winter War of 1939.   (It’s also the name of their strongest salt-licorice, which is fitting because it definitely takes some fortitude to eat it!)

I have enjoyed studying various other languages for interest sake over the years, although I gained no significant fluency.  I studied Esperanto, Japanese and most recently Italian.  It was particularly entertaining to be sitting at a restaurant table in Italy a couple months ago with my Finnish host parents and my Canadian husband, speaking English to him, Finnish to them, and Italian to the waitress!  It was especially clear to me then what this article suggests- speaking other languages is definitely a brain work out!


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