-Good. Okay now do the same thing, but bring your lips together into an "o" shape.
-Two vowels in one sound....what do we call that?
-Right! How 'bout three vowel sounds together?
-Er...(indistinct murmurs, seats shifting).
-A triphthong. Everyone say fire with your best British accent.
-(embarrassed silence, save one bright-eyed, brave soul piping up with "Fi-ah?").
-Okay, everyone. How about: the roof, the roof, the roof is on...
Teaching phonetics has have become my latest lot in life. Apparently, they've been a little short on professors to teach the lectures, so they've called on a couple of us to step up to the plate, handed us a pile papers, and patted us on the back with a hearty "I'm sure you'll do fine." It can be dry at times, but more often than not, the raw practicality of the discipline keeps me (and a considerable percentage of my students) engrossed. This is no useless knowledge; the rules and regulations of my native language are immediately applicable to my student's lips, lungs, tongue, and teeth. Brains are engaged at some point along the line, and pretty soon you have a bunch of French people that can remember to how to pronounce "shout" with "ow", not "oo".
Shoot. If only the path from knowledge to practice was always so short.
Karl and I have always tried to make a point of remaining lifelong lovers of learning. But we have remarkably diverse styles. I admire him for being able to educate himself for immediate, direct purposes. Learn the jazz charts down pat for the upcoming show. Read a magazine and learn how to put up drywall. Watch an online video and understand how to properly program the organ module. Look up a website to find useful French phrases before going to the Parisian music stores. The efficiency of this type of learning is astounding to me. No messing around with facts and figures for their own sake, just intensely practical. Hands-on, in every sense of the word.
I, on the other hand, tend to love knowledge for its own sake a little too often. Open my brain, fill it 'till my cup runneth over, and I'll sort out the jumble of thoughts afterwards. Sounds like a plan of sorts, maybe, but this process takes time. It's like cleaning out a large purse or the fridge every month or so - you've got to dump everything out, decide what's worth holding onto, what to throw away, and put the keepers back in an semi-orderly manner. By the time I work through this "spring cleaning of the mind", I've lost an opportunity or two to put some things into practice. Case-in-point: a recent re-evaluation of my academic goals set me back a good three weeks or so from actually going to the library and studying. (Uh, yeah. That's my idea of practicality...reading more. My wallet is stuffed with a collection of at least 5 different library cards, and I haven't even made it to the national library yet. Groan.)
Good thing I'm married to Karl. If it wasn't for him, I'd probably still be sitting cross-legged on the floor in a muddle of thoughts, trying desperately to organize them according to the Dewey Decimal system or something.