Tuesday, December 20, 2005

language matters

Sometimes being here is far more difficult than I had ever anticipated. Apart from loneliness which has gotten to me twice, recently it is because I seem to inhabit an English linguistic space, and when I sit down to write anything in Spanish the words just won´t come. These past weeks, in preparing doctoral applications for English-medium universities, it seems almost as if I had switched to a predominant English mode (and an avoidance of Spanish) as some form of self-preservation. After all, my applications needed to be in my best English possible, and having any Spanish influences spill over would not have necessarily made for a very good impression, and would not have made for a convincing argument for my not having to take the TOEFL test :)

But the consequence of the latter unscripted and unforeseen strategy is that completion of my Spanish assignments became all the more difficult. Now that the bulk of the applications have been completed I could now open my mind again, but it will take some days. One other aspect is that, even after having spent so many years formally studying and learning Spanish, I cannot believe how much rust has settled on my abilities. Sometimes rediscovering my Spanish abilities is like some archaeological excavation project. But that´s the frustrating part: I know what I am capable of linguistically vis-a-vis Spanish based on my excellence five years ago; and now, after some rust has settled in, it is amazing how sometimes I feel that literally I am having to start (learning the language) all over again. At other times it´s purely a performance issue; about my feeling suitably relaxed with whomever I am speaking to, and so feeling more able to spontaneously express myself. So, people whom I feel uncomfortable around (for whatever reason) usually get only monosyllabic responses from me. Which, as you know is tricky, since people tend to equate linguistic ability with intelligence. And usually people conclude, almost unthinkingly, that if you lack linguistic fluidity you must be one or two neuronal pathways short.


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