Language confusion

Have I mentioned to you that I’m pretty good at learning languages? Not incredible, just above-average.

It serves me well when I’m traveling, it helped me communicate 90% in Spanish for 3 months in Peru, opened many doors to new and better friendships with people. Six weeks into my first stay in Chile, my European friends took me along to barter and translate for them – because somehow I’d perfected communication in those 3 fortnights of semi-immersion. In Bangkok, my Thai vocabulary was infantile at best – but the Thai I knew? I knew well. Very well. My accent was clear, my grammar was somewhat sensible, I used the appropriate jumble at the appropriate times. I was safe.

And then I came home.

I overhear conversations in Spanish all day long, so I’ve been eavesdropping through many boring moments.

The issue at the moment is that my brain still thinks in Thai. Which is utterly insane. I never thought in Thai when I lived in Bangkok!! Ludicrous is what it is. Sure, I could argue over a taxi fare at 3 in the morning, but I had that conversation memorized. Thinking in Thai. Nope.

Except for the other day, when I started to talk in Spanish and the sentence went like this, “Chai, dai hablo espanol. Kah-tod-kah, mai mee vacabulario big. Oi! Chan muy confusado.”

Translation: Yes, I can [thai] speak Spanish [spanish]. Excuse me, I don’t have [thai] a big [english] vocabulary [spanish]. Oh, my [thai]! I am [thai] very confused [bad spanish].

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That’s basically how my mind works these days. Utter chaos. A mishmash of cultures, none of which claim me, none of which I’m embracing.

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I’ve always told people I didn’t agree with the approach of getting over a relationship by starting a new one, but after these past three months – I’ve changed my mind. The only way I’m going to finish the grieving process of Losing my Bangkok, my Newsong Family, of giving up a place where I’d found a Purpose and a Use – is to rediscover a Love, a Community, a Direction, A Passion for life.

Since I’m not at all convinced I’ll be in Indiana even until Christmas (yes, THAT’S another long story) and American culture requires a certain amount of longevity to create a place, this isn’t going very smoothly (Not that I’ve allowed many circles the opportunity to envelop me in Indianapolis) Then again, Latino culture expects constant contact to maintain relationships (I’ve failed, but have friendships still), Thai culture requires more respect than I often knew how to offer (and I was loved), and American culture expects a certain amount of consumerism if you hold a college degree (and my parents raised 7 children on one income). I’ve bucked the norms before, I just have to recommit to ignoring the the status quo and loving the now. I’m doing it, He’s helping, I’m opening again, it’s happening. Just don’t expect any amount of grace or elegance in this stumbling Salsa I’m tripping through.

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2 thoughts on “Language confusion

  1. Awww, Megan, I hear you! I’ve never really learned another language fully, although Belize Kriol comes the closest to that. For me, whatever was the last language I was immersed in, is the one that comes out. So when we went to Pakistan, my Spanish was never better! Then in Belize, my Urdu was never better! Now, when I hear Spanish, Belize Kriol comes to mind! If I remember right from our linguistic studies, when one learns another language, the brain develops an ‘other language’ center. When one becomes fluent, then there develops a say, ‘Spanish’ center, plus the ‘other language’ center. I think this was discovered through people with brain injuries. We had a friend who had a stroke when he had been studying Spanish and was just starting another language. When he started talking, I guess it affected his ‘English’ center, and his sentences came out a jumble of the other 2 languages! His wife was the only one who could figure out what he was saying! Our brains are amazing creations! It sounds like you’re going through some ‘third-culture’ phenomena. Although that puts a name to it, it doesn’t make the transition any easier. Keep your eyes on Him and take it one day at a time.You’ll get through all this, all the stronger! Blessings and <3. Btw, I loved the graphics!

  2. Yeah, I’ve been there some, too. Only for me it has been using my little Russian with Russian speakers here, and “losing” the French I studied more and was more fluent in. When I try to remember French, well, It is all mixed up, too. As you speak more in the present language of choice, you’ll regain your fluency.

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