Monday, April 25, 2011

So I would never have made it as a Wireless Operator

A very pertinent post for ANZAC day, I thought.

I'm dutifully studying my Greek.

I have an exam on Friday (not due til next week, but I don't trust Aussie Post to get it there in a short week) and also a tiny quiz to also submit the same day as it can be done online.

As I go through my exercises for this week, I begin to realise that I would have failed the course to become a Wireless Operator for the RAAF during the second world war.

What the?

Okay, some explanation for those who don't immediately follow where I'm going with this.

My Mum's Dad was, you probably have guessed (unless you're a family lurker and already know), a Wireless Operator during the second world war. He flew in the largely forgotten Halifax bombers from a tiny place in England for a couple of years.

He was lucky enough to get accepted as Aircrew, and because he wanted to be a navigator, the Airforce decided to send him to train as a Wireless Operator. (Ironically, on demobilisation they did aptitude testing to see what jobs he'd be good at back in the real world, and his scores were so good in one area that they supposed he must have been a navigator. No - that is something that he was interested in and had natural aptitude for - as if he'd get THAT job!!?!)

Anyway, to get back to the story, he had to learn Morse Code. In fact although there would be days when he would now struggle to remember my name, I bet you he could take a message in Morse Code just on reflex.

As he tells it, the trick in the examinations was to simply transcribe the letters as they came through. If you used your brain to make sense of it as it was coming, you'd suddenly find you weren't right and end up with the sort of mess that predictive text creates on mobile phones today, then you'd be lost and unable to catch up with the message. Then you failed the course and had to become an Air Gunner, taking a short sojourn in the kitchens because they didn't want everyone deliberately failing just to get through to the action more quickly and with less effort.

So, here I'm trying to do Greek to English translation exercises and I've just realised that where I am going wrong is when I take the first meaning I remember for a series of words and bung them together and then read the answer to see what it OUGHT to be and realise that my translation is not only seriously dodgy, but that if I took a little more time and didn't start presuming where the sentence is going before I am finished, I would probably do a whole heap better at it. And maybe it would approach sense in English.

And the chance that this post is not simple study avoidance?


Crazy Sister said...

What interesting advice! My grandfather had the same job, but he never talked about it.

Emily Sue said...

You kind of need to do the same when someone is finger-spelling a lot of words at you in Auslan. If I assumed it were a particular word I'd almost always find it was another word that happens to start with the same five letters, then when I got to the 'extra' letters I'd be totally lost.