Love in a foreign language

I’m in love. With a foreign language. I am learning to live with its eccentricities everyday. It’s a beautifully strange experience. A brand new outlook to life opens up in front off like an abyss making my head spin.

Learning a new language is a bit like visiting a new country. You have to watch what you say, learn to navigate the ups and downs of the new terrain, and avoid the pitfalls along the way. En route, there is a lot of interference from other languages you have learned. I’m learning Spanish now and my nearly forgotten French still intervenes. I say, “pardon?” and “excuse moi!” even though I didn’t learn French for very long.

I fell in love with Spanish writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pablo Neruda, Isabel Allende so many times based only on what they wrote. There must be something in the language that produces maddeningly creative writers like them one after the other. Is it the way they roll their “rr’s”? Is it the way they swallow their “h’s”? Maybe they swallow their experiences and regurgitate it into magic as well. Maybe it is the very atmosphere of unrest, revolt, uncertainty that gives rise to such literature. When you know that death is imminent, there is an urgency to put down your thoughts/experiences. Or when you know thinking/writing is forbidden, thinking/writing becomes a way to protest, subvert, or reclaim what is lost.

However, when learning a new language, there are no such stratospheric ideas. I have far more mundane concerns – like what is the word for “chair”. Is “chair” masculine or feminine? While I am an adult in one language, I am a child in the other. I have to learn to walk all over again. It is a humbling and refreshing experience at the same time. On the one hand, I feel a weight lift off my shoulders, (since I don’t have to worry about making mistakes) on the other, I am impatient to run. To learn a new language when I’m an adult pushes the boundaries of my understanding. The language is new but my experiences aren’t. I will have to be patient till these two meet.

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9 thoughts on “Love in a foreign language

  1. Hola det-res! Qué tal? My profesora is from Barcelona. So I am learning mainland Spanish. I do hope the South American version isn’t too way off! Don’t you just love Spanish? I love the rr’s and the general sound of the language. It’s quite earthy. We should exchange notes! 🙂

    Oh, I understood the conflict myself only when I start writing about why I love it. See one of the reasons why I write!

  2. Estoy muy bien, gracias. Y, tu? Mi professora es de Panama.

    I hear some vocabulary and pronunciations vary. Oh we absolutely should. I would so love to be able to speak Spanish out of class.

    How do you get the accent ( tilde) when typing in wordpress? Thanks.

  3. Have run the course with French and German.. and found it extremely interesting to learn languages..

    Like German for its very similar to an Indian Language..
    Love French for its romance..

    All the best and have good fun with learning Spanish.. 🙂

  4. i’m told that neruda and marquez read better in the english translations than their originals, i.e. their translators might just be more talented than the authors themselves. not all of them, of course.

    and spanish is a beautifully lyrical language 🙂

  5. Muchas apologies for the late replies.

    Det-res: Let’s parley in Español then! 🙂 There is alt code that you can use on any keyboard. This is the link: http://tlt.psu.edu/suggestions/international/bylanguage/spanish.html

    Pallavi: You are quite a polyglot! German is close to Indian languages because of its roots. English and other Indian languages come from the Indo-Germanic family of languages. 🙂

    Nandini: You should not because of my post but because of Spanish! 🙂

    Julychild: Welcome to South of the Border! Yes Spanish is beautiful. But what you say about translators I hope is not true. At least I am not convinced if it is. I have read many Spanish translations from different authors and translators and all of them have this magical/dreamy quality which is effortlessly not there in the English language.

  6. Hi,

    Just chanced upon your blog.

    I really liked the way you’ve written this. Particularly:

    Maybe they swallow their experiences and regurgitate it into magic as well.

    While I am an adult in one language, I am a child in the other.

    And if you like Spanish so much, you must listen to Buena Vista Social Club!

  7. Que bueno!
    Aprendi espanol tambien en el verano pasado. Es una idioma linda, no?

    I am in love with learning new languages too!! I was fortunate enough to learn Spanish in Guatemala last summer, but I’m afraid 6 months back in the U S of A have made it rusty already !
    Marquez if spanish is tough, no?
    Drop in to my blog if you get a chance 🙂

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