Sunday, August 26, 2007
Manageing the four languages - Episode 4
I often find, in everyday life, that if I come across someone who doesn't understand what I'm saying when I speak then certainly they will understand what I'm saying when I sign it in ASL. At least that's what makes sense in my head. Nevermind that the reality of it is not the slightest bit true..... my head continues to think this way. To complicate matters, I've taken 4 years of French. I do not claim to be even slightly fluent in the lauguage; however, I can read it enough to get by and in conversation I might be able to convey the essentials as well as understand the essentials. Keeping tabs, I've got 3 languages in my head on a regular basis. Now, ship me off to a country where the general population speaks Spanish. I don't speak Spanish beyond "hola", as everyone knows full and well. I did want to at least attempt to learn enough to get by while I was there, but I found it increasingly difficult to manage all of the languages in my head.
First, there's english. Seeing how this is my first and primary language, I always start with it whenever speaking is necessary. Unfortunately, in a Spanish speaking country, this doesn't get one very far. My second instinct is to sign. First, I sign because I'm with the deaf team - therefore ASL should be an acceptable form of communication - except when you're away from the team.....and then second, in my head it's what's supposed to come next after English fails....
Now we move to where French comes in to play. I can't communication in English, I can't communicate in ASL, therefore, next up to bat is French. Well, no, next up to bat is supposed to be Spanish - yet I don't know any Spanish. In utter frustration I try and try and try to conjur the word I am trying to say - in a language other than the one I primarily speak - but all that I can come up with are things in French (and that, my friend, will not get you very far in a Spanish speaking country).
Needless to say, I spent a huge part of the 10 days trying desperately to communicate with some really great, patient, and friendly Venezuelans. We've all exchanged emails and I've employed Google Translate to try and help me out at least a little bit. I'm positive that the translations are extremely literal, so I am not hopeful that my exact meanings are getting through (but it's better than nothing).