Carpetblogger is complaining here about the progress of her Turkish lessons and can't wait to use the "mish" tense:
This Turkish verb tense allows the speaker to distance herself from what she is saying and to avoid taking responsibility for her words. It's also known as the gossip tense.
In a moment of enthusiasm I bought a book on the Albanian language, hoping to use it in Kosovo. In fact I managed quite easily with English and German. In fact my German improved talking to German speaking taxi-drivers though most would rush you with "sprechen Sie deutsch" and then give up, after the "wenig" you admitted was more than theirs.
But back to Albanian.
"the verb in Albanian has nine moods: indicative, subjunctive, conditional, imperative, infinitive, participle, gerund, admirative and optative. The indicative has no less than eight tenses"
Actually the tenses are not very exciting. The book continues:
Just for fun (sic), have a look at the admirative and optative moods, which do not exist in English. Both of them have two tenses.
Jeto'kam pa'skam jetu'ar
(how strange it is that I am living) (how strange it is that I have been living)
jetofsha paca jetu'ar
(I wish I lived) (I wish I had lived)
(Albanians please excuse that not all the characters are correct, I only had an English keyboard, and couldn't fix it.)
Somehow that makes me think that a country which actually regularly need those sort of expressions must spend a lot of time dreaming or writing poetry.
More recently I have been brushing up my French grammar (in a good cause, I hope). I asked Bee (recently having taken GCSE French and considers herself rather good) about the past historic. She said that to do GSCE French these days there was no need to learn any tenses apart from the present. I stopped French after 4 years, as I preferred German and Latin, so I never discovered what they learnt in the 5 year for the exam, but even then I had a full knowledge of past, present, future and all the perfects, infinitive, imperatives etc. I defy anyone to say that French GCSE has not got easier.
I suppose I always felt that to be able to write in the past historic would be the culmination of my French education, since that was what I understood famous writers used. (Perhaps another reason I never read them, being put off by the need to learn the new forms). When Sloph started French school (we lived there for 4 months in the early 90s) we were impressed that schoolkids were already familiar with something we were not. She was not, because she had a rude awakening that other languages had grammar, which had to be learnt.
So there I was, ready to brush up my past historic, when I realised that I had read the French translations I was given without any problem. On inspection I found it was all "a souligne", "a pris note, a recommande".
(French also please excuse the lack of accents)
OK not very literary stuff, and easy to guess if you know the context. But it was "official French" a Traduction de Courtoisie. If the aim of this is to keep the use of French alive in the Maghreb and the Mashreq, then there would be hardly any point in doing a translation badly.
So my question is: what has happened to the French past historic and does anyone use it any more?