I have always been in awe of people who can speak multiple languages. Part of me knows it’s not that difficult – just learn and practice and continue to learn and practice. The other part of me – the part that wins out – knows that it’s rather difficult to find others to practice said language with any semblance of consistency.
Traveling has pushed me to always learn a few key phrases to ensure I could at least locate the nearest bathroom and/or hospital…once there you pick up more as you go along. French comes easiest, Italian was a close second, German is difficult and I didn’t get past “hello” in Greece…and then somewhere along the way I inevitably start mixing all of the phrases I know together and end up saying “Merci, esta delicioso bitte” leaving my Italian/French/Spanish/German waiter a bit amused at my Franglitalianishman made up language that sounds oh-so-wordly to my ears.
Smug face, denied.
Adam and I wondered a lot on this last trip of what it must feel like to be fluent in another, or multiple, languages. Did they have to pause to “switch” minds so to speak? Were they still translating in their head before formulating a response? How does it feel to fluidly move between languages – between worlds?!
And then I had a glimpse. A mere accidental peep into this secret world of other-language-speakers.
Small background: I was fortunate enough to go through elementary school before all the ridiculously stupid educational cuts that removed teaching foreign language to elementary students. You know, because they didn’t want it to be TOO easy to learn another language like the rest of the world.
It just goes to show that what you learn early on sticks with you. Indeed on almost an every day basis I find myself using smatterings of spanish, my personal favorite is “Un momento por favor” anytime I’m being asked to do something before I’m ready…i.e. leave for an appointment, do the laundry, take a shower…you know, the unimportant stuff.
Wouldn’t you know it as I’m washing my hands in a single bathroom in Santiago and someone raps on the door impatiently that without even thinking I shout out Un momento por favor! With gusto! With trilling r’s! With an accent!
It was only later that I realized that was it. That tiny little millisecond of no thought must be what its like. Fluency.
Even if it was only for a millisecond it was pretty cool.
Smug face, granted. (But, seriously self, go learn another language already!)