On not knowing another language.

I speak Spanish- sort of.

I know Italian- but not enough.

I can order food, curse, and count to 8, among other things, in German- but nothing more.

I can curse and order food and introduce myself and count to three in French- but that’s it.

I can say basic greetings, count to five, and ask for things in Turkish- again, the end.

Languages are some sort of aphrodisiac for me. The idea of syntax, grammar, and rules combined to create different sounds that have so much meaning? Glorious! The problem is that I’m a dabbler. I rarely commit to a language, and that’s because I always hit the wall.

The language wall.

I have been studying Italian and Spanish since freshman year of high school, but never totally immersed myself in the process. I even lived in an Italian speaking region of Switzerland for two years, but only learned enough to get around, not really striking up conversations with locals or taking the chance for a home stay with a famiglia. Lately, however, realizing that I love Germany, everything German, and that I find northern Europe a place I want to live permanently later, I desperately have gone through feverish states where I attempt to teach myself Deutsche. I’ve only become more frustrated.

Growing up in America with parents who only speak English is awesome. I have a large vocabulary and I love my native tongue. However, it is binding. English is becoming a global language, but it’s still a silencing sort of thing to only know ONE tongue, ja?

I guess the only point of this post is to express my yearning for a place where I can totally become a part of a culture enough that I absorb and utilize the language. I’m looking at graduate schools in Germany, and it would be so gut if I could somehow manage to stay there and learn German fluently.

Being fluent in another language is a really, really good thing. People who are bilingual (or trilingual, etc.) have better cognitive functions, they have more doors open for them, and they are in general just far cooler than us single-language knowing plebians. As a global citizen, I almost feel guilty for not committing and learning another language fluently. When I travel, I get the sense that if I just really really worked, I could learn (insert language of the places I’ve visited here: Polish, Turkish, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Switzer-deutsch, Sicilian).

I almost feel as though in order to be a true global citizen that understanding another language is essential. To truly know how to express your feelings in more than one language? That’s beauty. Plain and simple, pure, unfiltered beauty. (Not to mention damn useful!) For all you bilingual, trilingual, and other polyglots out there, I salute you! I someday hope to join your amazing ranks!

Ciao/Hasta luego/Tschüß/Au revoir/Widerluege!

 

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5 thoughts on “On not knowing another language.

  1. YES!!!!!!!!! Perfectly represents my feelings on language! Though I haven’t traveled at all, language is tantalizing. I love the idea of saying things different ways! And I love German 😀 I also wish I could learn every language, but that’ll take some time…

  2. I think it’s fantastic that you want to move over the pond and learn a language (german no less). I feel really lucky to have grown up bilingual, sort of ^^ but when you are a Kid you don’t realize it and it’s kind of normal and comes to you easy. I admire you for wanting to do that and I really wish you all the luck for succeeding, If you ever visit Zurich give a shout 😉

    by the way I hated german grammar in school, still do ^^

    grüsse

    • Danke! You live in one of the most gorgeous cities by the way- Zurich has a special place in my heart, I’ve visited it many times and only falled more in love every time.

      I wish in America that we began second and third language lessons early, much like in Switzerland. Languages are such beautiful, useful things! If I am ever in Zurich again (I hope!) I will let you know.

      Tschüß!

      • yeah we have to start early but I don’t know it’s a bit weird, german itself is a language, when you start school here. At what age do you start in the US?
        and can you choose which language or is spanish a given?

      • We start learning another language, usually either French, German, or Spanish (but usually Spanish dominates) in late middle school, early high school, so into our 8th or 9th year of education. SO late!

        The problem is that we can’t really utilize the language we learn, and so teachers and the nation in general don’t really encourage learning another language as much as they should.

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