Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Swimming in my head...

In the last week or so, I've noticed that my brain seems to be processing my thoughts more slowly. No, I am not tired. I am entre (in between) two languages and am finding it muy difícil (very difficult) to process ambos (both).

When I am on the phone with my family or a client from the U.S., I find myself stuttering slightly while my brain tries to process and speak English. Inglés for goodness sake! My native language. But the words just don't come readily anymore as my brain tries to automatically replace English words with Spanish words if I know the translation. I think of it as "owning" the word. If I know a Spanish word confidently, I own it, and therefore want to make use of it to reinforce my retention.

Some words, like "process" or "client" or "telephone," that are spelled similarly in English to the Spanish word (proceso o cliente o teléfono), look a little foreign now printed in my native tongue. As you can see, even as I write this, I find myself wanting to replace many English words and phrases with their Castellano counterparts. I've edited mucho out, but I've left some of these exchanges in my text (with translations in parenthesis) so you can see what I mean. I've done this from time-to-time since I have been here, especially in texts to Matthew when the Spanish word is shorter, saving my text characters so I can squeeze as much as I can into one message. Now, however, I realize this has become so frequent in my writing and spoken language that I have to be very careful when I send emails and speak to clients. Spanish slips in when I don't pay attention.

Por ejemplo (for example), yesterday I said to a client, "Es lo mismo," instead of saying, "It's the same." "Perdon," I then said, instead of "I'm sorry." It seems normal now to use these words, until I realize the other party has no idea what I am saying.

Todo el dia (all day), I subconsciously translate Castellano to English, English to Castellano, making mental notes of the Spanish words I don't know, or am not sure of. Trying to commit to memory new vocabulary and colloquial expressions. I need to own more words. I desire fluidity. Aha, just now another example. I would normally say "I want to own" and "want fluidity" but my brain just processed "necesito" more words and "deseo" fluidity because I have difficulty remembering and pronouncing "quiero" (I want) and often confuse it with "creo" (I believe). So my grammatical limitations in Castellano are now also dictating my choice of words in English. 

¡Ay dios mío! (Oh my God!) Espero que (I hope that) this means fluidity is just around the corner. It would be nice to have a conversation con (with) un porteño before I leave in December without having to say "No entiendo" (I don't understand) or "Hablás más despacio, por favor. Hablo un poquito de castellano." (Speak slowly, please. I speak very little Castalleno.)

Sólo puedo esperar. I can only hope.


  1. Isn't a second language to enhance your comprehension and use of the primary language? Sounds like you are making lots of progress and making some good stories to tell along the way!

  2. Amy, I fear that by the time I get home I may have to re-learn English and still not be fluent in Spanish. Ha!