Do you speak more than one language? When I was a teenager, if someone asked me if there was one skill I wish I had, my answer was always “to understand all languages in the world”.
Maybe that’s a weird thing for a teenager to say? But I loved languages. I still do. And I did before I was a teenager too. I have a very vivid memory from when I was 11 or 12: for some reason I had come with my dad to work. I was sitting in his office, copying pages from a Danish-Italian phrasebook on an electrical typewriter. I can see that phrasebook clearly in my mind. I wonder if my parents still have it.
In school we learnt English and German (from 4th and 6th grade respectively) and in ‘college’ I also took French and Latin. I loved Latin. Loved, loved, loved it. So much that I decided to study it at university. That wasn’t quite as fun as I’d hoped so I changed to Italian. Which was lovely! And gave me excuses for trips to Italy! :-D
But as much as I loved languages, I never imagined living outside Denmark. And yet, here I am, living my day to day life in a foreign language. Which of course is not foreign at this point. I’d say that I’m about 90% fluent in English. And sadly only 90% fluent in Danish. It is startling to experience forgetting certain words or phrases in your native language! There really should be a warning about this in the manual for people who move abroad. (There is no manual, there should be a manual!)
I guess I still would like to be able to understand all the languages. I’ve been learning Gaelic using the Duolingo app. The gameification of language learning is a bit annoying but I have learnt some! I have started following people who tweet in Gaelic and sometimes I understand a whole tweet without using a translate app!! This is very exciting! :-D
Last week I mentioned that I’d started listening to a Danish audio book and it wasn’t until I came across that book that I realised that I could look for audio books that aren’t English! So I’ve started listening to an Italian book to refresh my memory. Spoken French and German is very rusty for me, and forget about writing it (but I can still read it); Italian is a little better. But I don’t want to forget it!
Being able to understand even a little of a different language opens up a whole new level of, well, understanding of the culture and the people who speak the language. It is a marvellous thing. I’ll never understand people who travel abroad and don’t even try to learn just a few words but expect people to be able to speak English. I mean, it’s just common courtesy, isn’t it? Language opens the world to us. And brings us closer together.
I love this quote by Nelson Mandela: "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
That is so true. But I think it is also true that if you talk to a person in their language it also goes to your heart. Because you make that extra effort, and it makes a connection between you.
I don’t know if there’s any point to all this, other than I still love languages 30 years on and still want to learn more. :-)
Maybe that’s the point: find the thing you love and do more of it. Maybe there are interests from your childhood that you keep coming back to, even in short bursts or in oblique ways but it is still there. I think it’s worth grabbing hold of those strands and see what they may become. They may open whole new worlds… :-)
I hope you have a good weekend!
Some Things I Enjoyed This Week
Listening to an Italian audio book! :-) Castelli di Rabbia by Alessandro Baricco. (The English title is Lands of Glass.) I’ve read this book before, so I thought it would be a good place to start with audio books in Italian.
Receiving pictures of my sister and her family enjoying their holiday in Denmark (they live in California). Although it is bittersweet because I was supposed to join them for part of their holiday but I’m unable to because of covid-19…
Spotting a few gorgeous purple poppies growing in a verge. I have made a literal note of where so I can go back and pick the seed pods. I’m gonna turn into one of those people who are all-consumingly obsessed with a particular flower, aren’t I? :-D