08 September 2013

Finding Yourself in Another Language

America is moving on without me. It's changing, developing, and advancing while I watch from the other side of the Atlantic. It's a strange feeling.

I used to really be there, changing and advancing right along with my fellow compatriots. Your classic all-American teenager, and then college student.

-I read American newspapers and was raised to believe that creativity and efficiency were values.
-I read Glamour and Seventeen magazines when I went on trips, and stocked the library in my bedroom at my parent's house with Charles Dickens, Harry Potter, Jules Vern, and Jane Austin:  solid, anglophone classics.
-I ate at Taco Bell. 
- Despite being thoroughly uninterested by the sport, I went to an American football game at least once a year.
-I watched Saturday Night Live and The Office on the weekends with my girl friends.

A "dummy" used to mean someone stupid, and "a lift" was when someone gave you a ride - not an elevator!

My accent was a mingled little mess that happens when someone spends the first half of their childhood in the Midwest and the second half living in Podunk-Cowboy Town, Nevada. And I liked it that way. People could hear who I was and where I came from.

Cuddling a baby goat at a good, old-fashioned, American County Fair.
The other day I tried speaking English at work, and I couldn't find myself in the vocabulary, the accent.

It was like I was listening to someone else speaking.

Don't get me wrong. I haven't "lost" my English. I'm clearly typing up this little blog post in English and getting along just fine. That's actually one of the reasons that I started blogging. I wanted to keep in the habit of using written English, after realizing one day that by the time I'm forty, I'll have spent the majority of my life living and speaking in French. Crazy, non?

All day long, I'm chatting along in my second language and when I do speak in English, it's almost always with people who don't speak the language very well. My English becomes slower, over-articulated, and I stick to simple vocabulary. 9 times out of 10 we end up switching back to French, because it's just simpler for both of us.

French is the language I speak at home now, the language that I speak with the friends and work colleagues that I see on a regular basis. I eat, love, joke, and even sleep in French. (I've been surprised to find that even my dreams are now usually in French, or seem to have no language at all.) So I guess it's normal that's it starting to become my dominant language.

But I'm still a more confident woman in English. My grammar is better. And English words seem more alive. They still mean more to me.

But that girl who used to love speaking in public, who got a thrill from friendly debates, and who loved writing poetry - I don't know that girl anymore.

I miss her.

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