I am hopelessly in love with language. I love the way it moves, the way it sounds, the way it feels, the way it thinks. Hell, just being in the company of language turns me on! If language were a woman, I’d never get out of bed. Luckily, even though I’ve dabbled in French, Spanish and now Dutch, English will always be my monogamous choice. You see, I have this feeling that being completely bilingual (or multilingual, or whatever) is like having two girlfriends, mistresses or wives. It’s probably totally cool in theory, but the reality has got to be super- difficult and uber-confusing. So, if you speak more than one language, I have a few questions.
1 — My electronics are all set for English. However, if you’re emailing and texting people in more than one language, do you have to constantly change settings, or do you just pray autocorrect won’t suddenly have a total logic meltdown and fry your phone like in a bad Sci-Fi movie?
2 — What happens when you’re speaking one language and there’s a more descriptive word for what you’re saying in a different language? Do you tell your brain to quit being such a smart ass and carry on, or do you use the foreign word and hope people don’t think you’re a pompous jerk?
3 — In general, jokes don’t translate, so are people who speak more than on language so confused they don’t really laugh at anything? Or do they wander around all day, giggling like idiots, because everything is so damn funny?
5 — Idioms and slang usually don’t translate either, so when you get really angry or excited, do you swear at people in the wrong language?
6 — How do you play Words With Friends? Do you settle on one language or just use them all?
7 — How do you know which language you think in — like, for really?
But the thing I really want to know is this:
8 — After awhile, do you start speaking French with an American accent, German with an Italian accent, English with a Spanish accent and on and on — until even you don’t remember which is which, and you sound like your original language was Klingon?
13 thoughts on “Lost In Translation”
My Spanish teacher said the best indication you’re fluent in a language is if you dream in it. He told us his Spanish dreams were always interesting, but his Portuguese dreams were really wild! I always thought that would be cool to be able to dream in various languages, but alas, I didn’t stick with it.
I have dreamed in Spanish but that was a while ago when I lived in Phoenix. BTW, thank you so much for your very nice review of my book on Amazon. Am I going to get the opportunity to reciprocate any time soon?
Wow, I thought you had a camera in my house or something. I’m working on something, but no idea how long it will take or what will come of it. Thanks for believing it a possibility though – it gives me hope!
I can’t get different languages – my brain just doesn’t work it. I remember the effort to do first year high school French. Ugh. I want my brain to effortlessly translate my thoughts into verbal sounds that make sense, with other languages there is a long delay between seeing the word and working out what it means.
I’m pretty good with European language but I once tried Japanese and set international relations back 10 years
The time I lived with a Scottish woman I dreamt in English.
She moved away and lately passed away.
Now I try to keep up with my English replying here and there.
did you learn English in school?
At school I did not pay and attention to the teachers.
Neither did I do my homework ..l
I do believe the best way to learn a language is by love!
As a teacher of a bilingual departement I did a Cambridge course.
But that is all getting rusty.
I was the same in school. I agree with you about love. In English we have a term “sleeping dictionary” which is a lover who speaks a different language. It’s fallen into disuse recently.
I don’t know if you really want an answer to all your questions, but as far as #5 is concerned, I can assure you that – when I’m really really angry – I use my mother tongue 😀
That’s interesting. I’m just kinda curious more than anything else.
As for #1, mine are set for English, but I have a bilingual keyboard (with Greek alphabet). For emailing/writing in Greek, I have to change the language setting. Or we all simply use Greeklish. So χρόνια πολλά for instance is written chronia polla.
I want to answer number eight. The more I studied Spanish (2 years ago), the more my ability to think in English degraded. That would be okay if I were an ordinary civilian, however, I am a professor. I actually had a few moments where I had to think about the spelling of a word while writing on the board.
I read all of the time in English and Spanish so it was a little puzzling. However, to counter that I began studying word power books in English and reading vocabulary lists. Its funny because I started studying Spanish, but also ended up studying English.