Word Mash-up

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Man, that ol’ Tower of Babel really messed us up.  When God confused the languages of mankind, He really did a doozie on us.  I know a woman who can speak 5 languages, but most of us struggle to master even one.  So it just amazes me when I observe how babies are wired for language learning.  I see the 9 month old daughter of our friends learning to speak her Mother Tongue, Spanish, and I am in awe.  Spanish equals work to me, and here this baby understands some of it better than I do!  It amazes me.

Last week I had a weird conversation that really was a mix and match of languages.  I met a French family.  They know very little English and a little Spanish.  I remember a very little French from high school, but I have English down pretty well and Spanish trucking along from behind.  So between those 3 languages, we managed to communicate!  It was a shallow conversation, to be sure, but it felt good (in a crazy way) to be able to communicate with this French family.

This last month our school hired a Chinese woman to teach Music class.  She doesn’t speak English and this is a school where we mainly use English.  She speaks Spanish… sort of… so when I talk with her, Spanish is our common language.  It was the same when we were in Mexico.  There was a large group of families from the Korean embassy who sent their kids to school with MY children.  The parents spoke no English and I spoke no Korean.  When we wanted to communicate with each other, Spanish was our common language.  Their kids amazed me.  Their kids were going to school in their THIRD language!  Their Mother Tongue was Korean, they were really good with Spanish, and they were studying in English. Talk about some brainy kids!!

In all of these situations I have found myself literally STUTTERING in whichever language I finally pronounce.  My brain becomes like a plate of spaghetti with all these linguistic wires crossing.  When I’m trying to figure our which language to use to start a conversation, I’m always afraid I’ll go to say, “hola” and “aloha” will come out.  I swear, one day this will happen.

2 responses »

  1. I once conversed to some Israelis in England (at Warwick Castle) in Hebrew, but accidentally included some Spanish. Amazingly, they understood in spite of it all. I often dream in Hebrew with Greek thrown in as well. You’re right though, it all gets thrown into the same mental drawer. Consequently, German sometimes includes French, Greek includes Latin, etc.

    • Yeah, I think all the languages are indeed thrown into the same mental drawer. When I started learning Spanish, I had random words from French come back into my mind. I had long forgotten that I knew those words, but they were deep in there somewhere!

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