French, Spanish, English and a Soupçon of Japanese


Language Scramble by Eric Andresen

Language Scramble by Eric Andresen

Yesterday I opened a notebook at a random page and found a chart my husband had written years ago.

The chart is titled ”Who Spoke English?” and has our initials place on top of two columns. Our intention must have been to keep track of our progress through the week, but it seems that we couldn’t keep up with our resolution to use the chart for more than two days.

It wasn’t a first, either.

When we met in Japan in February 2008, my husband and I had to speak English to understand each other. He had studied French a little but didn’t speak it at all. I had studied Spanish for three years in High School and had spent a month and a half in Nicaragua. And yet I could not manage learning Japanese, speaking French with my friends from France and Quebec, talking in English with most international students all while trying to remember Spanish. Not to mention that all my friends who spoke Spanish did so in different accents. Needless to say my brain was overwhelmed. Whenever I tried to speak Japanese, Spanish words would come to my mind.

My husband learned French very quickly. It took me a while longer to remember what I knew of Spanish and to learn entirely new words. Despite this, we still spoke English much too often.

We still do. And every once in a while, I tell him we should probably stop speaking it entirely. I often think that we should stop mixing languages all together. Mixing French, Spanish, English and what little we remember of Japanese is a sure way to keep ourselves perpetually confused, and it complicates things when we talk to other people. I have to be careful not to answer ”hai” instead of ”oui” or ”soka” instead of ”is that so”.

And yet I like the fact that my husband and I have our own unique way of talking to each other. It’s something very special that we share. We are even considering studying Japanese again so that we can have a way to share secrets no one else can understand here. As it turns out, in Quebec, most people understand French and English, and a surprising number of people know Spanish.

Then again, to this day, whenever I try to speak Japanese, Spanish words still come to my mind.

 

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