Today’s story was originally written for the 2016 Halloween episode of the Word Count Podcast. You can hear my reading of it here.
But if you want to study the language of Feldok yourself, you might find this version more approachable. If you’re absolutely sure you want to…
A Lesson in Feldok
The woman at the front of the class stood straight up, fixed a plastic smile on her face and waved. “Prub-dush,” she said.
We looked at each other, confused.
She waved again. “Prub-dush,” she repeated.
“Prob-dush…?” tried a guy in the second row.
The teacher’s smile broadened. “Prub-dush mul-brin ‘Prob-dush’. Heilan twor-bid twook. Prub-dush, lon-rik.”
This time we all gave it a go, all fifteen of us echoed her “prub-dush” back at her.
She gave us a round of applause. “Twor-bid, lon-rik. Hasta twor-bid.” She pointed to herself. “Aba-dosh ‘Susan’. Qui-dosh bord?” She pointed at the girl on the far left of the front row.
The girl giggled. “Prob-dush?”
The teacher shook her head. Pointed at herself, then at the girl. “Aba-dosh ‘Susan’. Qui-dosh bord?” she said again.
“Oh!” said the girl. “Aba-dosh … Michelle…?”
The teacher clapped her hands in delight. “Hasta twor-bid, Michelle. Prub-dush.” Then she moved on to her next victim.
I did some mental arithmetic. It would be a good few minutes before Susan got to me. While she worked her way through the group, I had a flick through the course textbook; we each had a copy, hand-me-downs from the last group, it looked like, as my copy was a little beaten up. It wasn’t a quality book, the binding was loose already and the paper and print quality wasn’t much better than photocopied. All in black and white.
I’d taken the course on a whim. I didn’t know the language, by which I mean I wasn’t even sure which country it was spoken in, but the flyer suggested that the new techniques taught in the class would help with all language learning, and Finnish was kicking my ass right now. Figured I could give it a try at least. This taster session was free, so I wasn’t losing anything if it was bad.
A flicker of red inside my book caught my eye as I paged through. Curious, I backed up and saw that the previous owner had written the word ‘RUN’ in large red capitals across the middle of page six.
I turned to page seven, more of the red writing, but this time all in the language we were learning. I didn’t understand a word of it. Or… well, one thing caught my eye, as it seemed to be about the question Susan was asking. My predecessor had written ‘Qui-dosh aba’ a half dozen times at the end.
Susan had reached me. “Aba-dosh Susan. Qui-dosh bord?”
“Hasta twor-bid, Tony.”
Once she had completed her circuit of torture, she gave us another smile. “Hasta twor-bid lon-rik. Well done, everyone.
“There are actually very few native speakers left of Feldok left,” she said. “I like to get out there and spread the word, when I can, because it keeps the old tongue alive, but of course it can be useful for you too. Why learn a language that so few people speak? It’s a good question. But Feldok is so old, it predates English, Latin, Greek. It’s a fundamental language, one of the building blocks that underpins spoken languages the world over. The sounds in it can be found migrated into many, many forms; what you learn here can be useful in learning other languages.
“It’s not without its quirks mind you. There’s no native word for ‘computer’ of course, but technology aside there are words we use in English every day that have no equivalent in Feldok.”
She picked up a whiteboard marker and wrote ‘Lort’ on the board. “This means ‘old’, but it’s also used to indicate seniority, and superiority, so you can call your boss at work Lort, or strictly Lort-ek because… well perhaps that’s a lesson for another day.”
“Feldok has, on the other hand, a lot of words for things we only use a handful for. The original speakers of Feldok were perhaps a little closer to their fight-or-flight roots than modern man, and have eighty-seven fairly nuanced words for ‘fear’. All the way from ‘sarp’, which is a mild unease to ‘bwanik’ which is abject terror.”
There was a nervous laugh around the room; it seemed an odd topic to focus on.
“And there’s sarp,” said Susan. We laughed politely, but I was still quite sarp.
She moved around the room, distributing handouts. “We’re going to try something today, if you don’t mind. This is something I normally leave for lesson five, but I think it might be useful to do earlier in the course, just to give you a flavour of how the language really sounds.”
I looked at the paper she handed me. There were three short paragraphs written in, presumably, Feldok, although the alphabet used was English. I caught some words, or at any rate some sounds I had heard listed there. Including Lor-tek and bwanik.
“This is just a bit of a nonsense poem,” said Susan “you don’t need to understand it, just cappa los worden, listen and repeat.
“Aba-dosh your name,” she began.
Dutifully we all murmured the phrase.
“Rulpa aba gorv, lor-tek bwanik. Again, but give it some oomph!”
We all tried harder. Susan was right, the language seemed almost familiar as we all parroted back. I didn’t know the words, but of all the languages I’d ever tried to learn, the sounds of this one seemed to come more readily. We got to the end of the page, and I was feeling pleased with myself.
“Hasta twor-bid lonrik,” said Susan. “Worden.”
We started at the top again. I think all of us were getting it now. Where the first reading was sarp and droskin, this wolt morpik fot. I mean, it was much morpik fot.
“Worden!” Susan shouted.
As I felt myself slipping away, and the portal to the realm of Lort-ek Bwanik opened… I lose England-speak.