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.