onsdag, marts 12, 2008

How to lose the ability to speak in any language

Here's the secret. First, learn a foreign language. Any foreign language will do, especially one which can be sort of used in other places (so Danish is good, because it sort of works also in Norway and Sweden). In my case, I learned Portuguese, and had several opportunities to sort of use it in Spain (I've been told that it also sort of works in Italy, but I haven't had as much luck with that one).

Once you've become pretty good in the first one, then learn another foreign language. Preferably one that is really different than the first foreign language. I chose Danish, which is still Indo-European, but different enough. Learn that one enough so that you start to forget the first one.

Finally, travel with people speaking the second foreign language, to a country where you could sort of use the first foreign language, if only you could remember it well enough. Then decide you are too stubborn to use your native language (even if, as in my case, your native language is the one language that people are sure to sort of know pretty much wherever you are).

And then try and speak, and see if I am not right in saying that all communication will, practically speaking, cease. Really, it works. In my case, I can no longer speak anything at all. I stop a conversation (in Danish) to order food, or to buy something, and I end up speaking Danish to servers and clerks. Which really isn't very effective.

Am I right in assuming that this is some sort of foreign language universal?

5 kommentarer:

Devil Mood sagde ...

that's so funny!
I can imagine you saying to Thor that you're trying to concentrate but in spanish and then turning to the bartender and speaking danish. Priceless :)

Scholiast sagde ...

I think it works best if English is your native language... With English all around, you really can't lose it as a second language, even if you add a third!

I have found, though, that learning Greek will eradicate all the French you've ever learnt. For some reason. (They're not similar. At all.) And that learning Dutch as a sixth language will sort of eradicate itself because you learnt German as a third...

If that makes any sense?

Chibithulhu sagde ...

never really had that problem, but I am nowhere near multilingual. I speak various different manifestations of English (Literary Academic, Southern Casual, and Politically-correct Professional), as well as Nadsat, which is more of a jargon or criminal's-cant mixing English with some intentionally-mispronounced Russian ("Good" is "Horror-Show" rather than "khorosho", frinstance - it comes form the Anthony Burgess novel "A Clockwork Orange"), and, as is required for an internet person, LOLcat. I use Politically-Correct-Professional at work, Literary Academic when posting on the internet (mostly) and i chat with friends in a mix of LOLCat and Nadsat, which largely means my friends won't chat with me anymore.

Add a few choice invented words from Douglas Adams and JRR Tolkien and the occasional smattering of German remembered from decade-old lessons, and it all turns into my own very distinctive form of Nerdlish, aka Otaku-ese, fanspeak, etc.

kimananda sagde ...

Ms. Mood, you're not far off...only substitute Sportanhol for Spanish! Actually, Thor and I speak more English, so it was easier for me to do things in sort-of Spanish when it was just us. With Thor's dad, it's all in Danish, and that's where it got interesting.

Scholiast, I hadn't thought about that with English, but it makes sense. What I can't understand is how such different languages (like Greek and French) get confused. When I moved to Portugal, the other new teachers in my group were all very good Spanish speakers, and they found that the Portuguese really affected their Spanish. Which makes sense. But I never thought I'd have the same issues with Danish and Portuguese. Of course, putting a Portuguese word or two into a Spanish conversation is not so bad, and you'll probably be understood. Which can't be said for Danish words in a Spanish/Portuguese blended conversation.

kimananda sagde ...

Chibi, registers of a singe language seem to be easier to differentiate than different languages. But I've found myself slipping there too. That might be just me?