Sunday, 19 February 2012

Lost in translation

I'm sure you will all know (or if your knowledge is lacking, will guess) that the biggest barrier that one would face living abroad would be the language. And you would be right. It's bloody impossible.

Six months, six whole months (well, almost) I have been here, and a full four years in school I spent learning, yet still, I am unable to speak the ruddy language. Well, that's not entirely true, I will confess. I can get by, but I doubt that incoherent sentences coupled with over-expressive hand gestures counts. But that is not the frustrating part. It is extremely annoying, I admit, but it is nothing compared to my next problem. I hope I am right in saying that I think the following is common amongst everybody with a foreign language, and if not, well, let's just say you are slightly odd and leave it at that. Here it comes then; the most irritating thing of all is that I can understand more than I can speak. There. I said it.

Even though a sizeable portion of my education was spent twiddling my thumbs and longingly staring out of the window at those playing football (that's soccer to all you Americans reading, NOT your silly excuse for a sport), I must have absorbed a certain, I'm not really sure what to call it other than a 'tolerance' or a 'familiarity' with the language. Although this is still better than nothing, the following scenario has now become a regular occurrence in my life. I'll be down the shops or merrily walking on the street, minding my own business, musing over the previous day and slowly dissecting its events to decipher some meaning (oh, you don't do this too? Awkward...), and a local will approach out of nowhere and ask me a question. Now, I often understand what they are asking of me, but due to my general incompetence at life, my usual response is to stand there blubbing, failing at producing any sort of recognisable sound. Instantly, I am then deemed worthless. A mere waste of space. And occasionally, I have even been mistaken for a severely mentally ill ape.

For those silently (or verbally - I have no way of knowing) judging me, have a bit of sense! Yes, somebody who knows nothing will have exactly the same reaction, but more often than not, they expect to be seen in that way! And if not, well, maybe they really are apes! But seriously, my frustration is getting to the point that I actually get angry at little kids in the street. There they are, happily running around and speaking the language fluently. The arrogant little so-and-sos. How dare they! I am a good amount older than them! I should be able to speak it too! All I want to do is to scream at them going, "How?! How do you do it little person?! Teach me your wise ways once you have finished skipping around the road with your equally talented friends!" I won't do it though, just in case you are worried. I am far too sensible and British for that. Plus, although I am slightly odd, I am not that kind of odd. My kind of odd is more like loving to be in the car when it rains or preferring to drink cold water out of a mug. I think I might have strayed from the point there. And used the word 'odd' far too many times. Right, now, back to reality.

Although I do try and speak as much of the language as I can, whenever the opportunity arises to speak English, I take it. Whether it's meeting new people or trying to arrange transport, I feel that with important issues such as these, using a foreign language will be more than less than unhelpful. But even then there is a little problem, and it was only over the past weekend that I fully noticed it, giving me the idea for today's post. American English is very different to British English. And by different, I mean it's wrong. So very wrong. All this 'jelly', 'jello', and 'sidewalk' business is quite silly. I mean, when I finally find someone who can speak English in a sea of people who don't, imagine my annoyance and disappointment when I find out that neither of us can understand each other. So if any of you out there are American, whilst I love you all deeply, please stop talking funny. Ta.

In my attempt to bring a small understanding to our different cultures, I did a little bit of research. Well, not exactly research. I spent a full 23 seconds on Google. But still, what I found will prove useful to you all. It is an American-British dictionary! Gone are the days when people will look confused and go, "Sorry, what?!" or, "Who says that?!" I like to think I do my little bit for society. For your upmost convenience, I have attached the link below. Use it wisely. But that is it from me for now. Terrah!


Sam Routledge said...

Haha, don't feel bad about understanding more than you can speak; that's par for the course for learning a new language.

As for the kids, you can feel smug in knowing that like, six years ago they were being surprised by their own hands. Six years ago you were busy being awesome. So there.

Capability Brown said...

Stop thinking 'foreign' language, start thinking 'sister' language and you will succeed . Really.

Alon Nachshen said...

Ha ha! Brilliant idea regarding the kids!

Thanks to the both of you for the support :-)

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