Saturday, April 18, 2009

SS - language

The language that you speak torments me in my sleep*

I hate repeating myself (or do I?) and I know I've posted these lyrics before. But, you see, I'm obsessed about languages, as much as I'm obsessed about certain songs. And how could I help it? It's right in the first sentence -"or do I?" - shouldn't it be "or don't I?". To be honest, I don't know but it's these crazy language hiccups that make things interesting. 

With languages it is often a case of the stranger the better. Typically, as you get to know a language and begin to master it, it gradually becomes less mysterious. It stops being something that is foreign and exterior and it becomes a part of you, an instrument of you. This has happened to me and English. I started to learn the language when I was 10 years old. Before that happened, I was so fascinated by it that I pretended to know it and tried to immitate the sounds from songs and films. 

Then began the slow process of mastering the language. It was incredibly fascinating because it was the language of all things cool. But it was also immensely frustrating wanting to use it as if it was my own - I wrote a lot of terrible phrasing before my words sounded more or less decent. It took years of practice of both reading and writing and, in the process, English became a part of me, not the language that singers sang in anymore.  I know this because I cannot help but write in English, it is now a part of my mental processes, my creativity, my writing abilities. And even though I still enjoy it, it has become too familiar to keep the previous allure, so I have to turn elsewhere for fascination.

The fascination is in the sounds, the musicality, the accents, the similarities, the differences, the meanings, the connections, the exceptions, the origins, the evolutions. Really, what is there not to like? Unless you aren't into languages, which is also an option.

As I mentioned above, I believe a language becomes a part of you when you use it frequently enough. Being the way to express yourself, you have to mold it to your preferences and to your profile. This makes me wonder if, considering how different languages can be, certain languages aren't a better fit for certain people or certain usages and expressions. Obviously every language has the ability to express the whole range of realities, but can one language trap you in your expression? Could you express a side of you more easily using a different language? Or are you able to be more 'you' in a certain language? I don't know if these questions make any sense to you. 

*lyrics by Smoke City "It's Amazing" / photo on


Rinkly Rimes said...

You speak of imitating a language before you 'know' it. I remember doing this with German! I'd lie in bed and speak a garbled gutteral sort of language with a bit of spitting in it. I felt great. But I was only five or six!

murat11 said...

Ms Mood, I love the questions you pose in your last paragraph. I've no ready answers, but I do know that just speaking English with an Italian accent brings out a very different me. I have a friend at the Instituto who is Italian; often when I speak to him, I slip into his accent, and I greet all my students in the morning with bon giorno! There's an automatic exhilaration that comes with Italian.

It's interesting to think of your needing perhaps to move on beyond English, because of your mastery of it and because of its lost allure due to that very mastery. I greatly admire your dedication to moving beyond the comfort zone of Portuguese. Would that Portuguese were part of my comfort zone...


Niall said...

I think words are very much like colours on an artists chose to mix them to express what you want to convey..and different mixes convey different is only limited by the the amount of colours one has in the paintbox.

Your grasp of English is superb..anyone reading this blog for the fist time would think that you are English.You really are quite remarkable !

It is therefore even more of a dissapointment to me that I hear so many people here in England who have not learned to use their own language with all it's nuances and expressions....they have grown to use only a very limited pallete of colours.

chrispito said...

one of my best friends is a linguist, and fluent in several other languages than english. she has told me repeatedly that there are words/phrases good in one language and only marginally adequate in another.
is this what you mean?

Aathira said...

As I mentioned above, I believe a language becomes a part of you when you use it frequently enough. Being the way to express yourself, you have to mold it to your preferences and to your profile.I completely agree... I mix languages and speak mostly coz of this very reason.

kimananda said...

I used to have my internal conversations in Portuguese...the words I knew, I'd use, the others would just be my Portuguese got better, I had more words. It really became a part of me to think to myself in Portuguese, and I do feel I could express, not more, but a differently nuanced version of myself and my thoughts. With Danish, I've done the same, though not nearly to the same degree. I am impressed that you've gotten so accurate though...though I've been told that my skills in both languages is good, I'm sure it's always clear what language is my native one!

Devil Mood said...

Rinkly Rimes: haha Yes, that's exactly what I did, except without the gutteral and the speaking, because it was english.

Murat: Yes, absolutely. Even an accent can make a change, particularly Italian, which is so expansive. Many words in english continue to puzzle me, though...particularly reading your posts ;)

Niall: Oh thanks, this wasn't that kind of 'praise-me post' lol.
You're right, it's the colours in the palette, but we all (well, most people) limit ourselves to a certain vocabulary in our own language. I think it's easier to go beyond that in a foreign language because you experiment.

Chrispito: That too!

Aathira: that's great and fun too!

Kim: Oh your mind must be such a mix sometimes! haha That's fabulous what you said about expressing yourself in different nuances. I really think that happens.

murat11 said...

Ms M: I'm not sure that's English in those posts, and I'm sure as hell not sure the writer is an English practitioner...:-D

missalister said...

So the honeymoon is over, eh?! Well, that’s alright. We humans crave the new and different like life itself. We don’t just want challenge, our brains need it to survive. And you, Ms. Mood, have, without question, done one of the best jobs I’ve personally seen of mastering English.

Certainly, I couldn’t nail down one Americanism you don’t have a handle on, although I suspect, given the law of averages, that there’s plenty you haven’t…heck, there’s plenty I haven’t a handle on. And forget about keeping up with our latest slang! New slang terms are being invented every hour.

You’ve done more than I’m willing to do for another language. Although, if given 48 hour days, I might like to learn Spanish and Italian. And God knows I’d like to go to those places to learn it!

I like your thoughts on fit and languages. As they say in Texas, “You bet,” it makes sense to me! Like styles of clothes, I believe you’re onto something, that some languages limit some of us, just don't fit right, and others are “That’s so you dahling!”

Really neat, groovy, deep, intellectual thoughts here, DM!

Devil Mood said...

Murat, maybe you have a point there.

MissAlister: Oh I'm still learning new words and usages every day, don't you worry. ;)
Yes, languages like pieces of clothing.

Surabhi Pratap said... are you?

its been so long that i read ur blog.... feels great though to get back to it.

and surely u've come a long way .....

well, hope u remember. Do you?

Anyway,good going!!!

meetmahima said...

some of your love for language comes across in your writing. sometimes you can be so surprising and fresh in your use of words. i love it!
did u read steven pinker's stuff of thought or language instinct? i got the audio book and enjoyed some bits of it quite a bit

Devil Mood said...

Surabhi, hello! Did you change your profile name? I don't really remember - are you sure you weren't a lurker? ;)

Mahima, I will have to check that out. I haven't read it.

Surabhi Pratap said...

haha..thats good!! no i've always had the name 'surabhi' for all my blogs.
but ya...i deleted all the old ones......

u know someone by the name "this is me"....thats a close friend of mine. n i think accidently u came across mine some ages back....

oR unless u r someone absolutely new n i hav mistaken u for someone else......

Possible ;-)

Devil Mood said...

Surabhi, you might be mistaken, I don't know anyone called 'this is me'. But you're very welcome all the same!