Sep 7, 2011

life in translation

It may not be true for everyone who attempts to learn a new language, but for me learning Italian was far more than just learning how to speak using words I that had been previously unknown to me.  Learning a new language meant that I had to learn how to express all that I am in a fresh vocabulary.  It meant that I could not rely on sarcasm, or humor or even intelligence (not right away).  Not even how you moved your hands or your normal facial expressions were a sure fire bet that you were going to be understood.

While this learning process is far from over, I was pretty sure that transitioning back into my native mother tongue would prove simple.  I was mistaken.  Before I lived in Italy for 9 months I had never once had any issue ordering at a Mexican restaurant.  But, since returning it is just one of the many things I struggle with.  Now I feel like I should order in Spanish (another language I heard a lot of in Italy, but do not speak), thankfully my brain knows that while I may very well understand far more Spanish than I ever have I do not know it.  What my brain seems to forget is that I do not need to thus switch to Italian to compensate for my lack of Spanish.  So what happens is when it is my turn to order I think in Spanish, I begin to utter Italian and then I clumsily finish in English and end up just sounding incompetent.

Another fun side effect Italian has had on my brain is that whenever I need to call someone (anyone) I think the whole conversation through in Italian first, just to be sure I know how to say what I need to tell them in Italian.  Never-mind the tiny detail that very rarely does the person on the other end need me to speak in Italian   For example, this morning after having been home for over 3 months I needed to call to schedule a doctors appointment.  Before calling, I thought to myself...

Vorrei un appuntamento con il Dottore. Ho anche bisogno di ottenere alcuni esami del sangue fatto.
This is highly unnecessary, but I do this before almost every phone call or important conversation.  I have no idea why, habit I suppose. 
Then there are the people I still speak to in Italy, I love chatting with them, they are beyond patient with  my faltering Italian.  The thing is after I finish talking with them I want to share about our conversation with my friends and family here, but that means I need to translate their humor and voice into English, and it just never seems to capture the truth of who they are.
It's a funny thing living life in multiple languages.  I cannot imagine what it must be like for my friends who speak 3-7 languages fluently.  I admire them greatly and would imagine that their inter dialogue is pretty amusing at times.

No comments:

quotes i love

  • "they will never care how much you know until they know how much you care."
  • "never be afraid to trust a well known God with an unknown future." - Corrie Ten Boom
  • "God doesn't need you, He loves you, that is much better."
  • "the world has yet to see what God can do through a man/woman who is totally commited to him." - D.L. Moody
  • "be who you is, cause if is ain't who you is, you is who you ain't."-
  • "some people say movies should be more like real life. I say real life should be more like the movies."