Friday, July 07, 2006

My Brain Gets Stuck.

I cannot get enough of Desde el bano, a podcast about Argentinian dialect. Love it. (The link is to the blog; from there you can listen to the entries on iTunes or whatever podcast feed you like).

Today was a funny day. "Sunny" and "Fridays" are just not a good day to be serious in Seattle; it's a combination that aggravates Seattlitis, which is the phisical need to not work or be in class. Workers take the afternoon off or come up with pathetic excuses to leave work; students in classrooms stop paying attention.

Today is one of those days. Two of my classmates wouldn't stop socializing in English, and when the teacher gently brought them back into the fold, they said, fine, how do you say "helicopter?" which is hardly even pretending to care about the Chinese conversation we were having. Funny.

I hung out after class to wait for la C. La C is from Spain, so I usually speak to her in Spanish, or sometimes English, but since she's in Italian now, I try to speak to her in Italian. Today... well we learned a LOT of Chinese vocab today, key things that really expanded our ability to express ourselves. And then la C was totally gung ho about speaking Italian, and was switching to Spanish way less than she usually does.

Here's the thing: multilingual people don't "mix up" languages. Monolinguals are always asking us "how do you keep all that straight in your head," and it's really not a big deal. Language is a habit, so "mixing up" languages is not really an issue, anymore than "mixing up," say, tennis with soccer. They're usually too different to mix up.

So multilinguals don't 'mix up.' We do, however, sometimes 'get stuck.' And today, I was trying to speak Mandarin, and then *boom* I switched to Italian, and my brain totally 'got stuck.' I could not have switched to Spanish (or English) to save my own life. I would say something like, "Ok, voy a hablar spagnolo" and before you know it, I was back in italian. And it's not even that I was speaking Italian particularly well, I was just *stuck,* and everything I said would eventually come back to italian.

There's another version of "stuck" I used to experience in college, when I'd spend the day speaking French and English, and then on the walk home, I'd run into someone who spoke Spanish, and then *boom* my mind would just go blank, and I was unable to say anything in any language. Totally stuck.

This happens to me in English too, but a little differently, since English is my first language. I'll be working hard at speaking another language, and then suddenly I will have to speak English. In this case, though, I can express myself just fine in English, but I suddenly feel like I don't want to speak English, I'm speaking way too fast, and all of my idioms sound contrived.

It usually only lasts for a second, but it's quite a shock.

Anyway, today I got super hungry during class, so la C and I walked to Takohachi. When we got there, the neon sign was off, and there was a "closed" sign in the door. I pouted, and la C walked in anyway. The lady came to us "so sorry, we are closed, we ran out of food." BOOOOO!!!!

So instead we went to Hing Loon and ordered chicken chow mein (hong kong style) and Buddha special. La C was amazed, she loved it. Of course there was a fried sesame ball and fortune cookies.

Afterward, we took a walk through Uwajimaya, to look at the fish. La C was disappointed that the $1.29 price for saturn peaches was each, instead of by the pound, but she said she would go back later for the black cod steaks. We both gushed over the mackeral (si no fuera por los japoneses el bonito no se nos venderia por que los gringos, que saben!) and then saw some big bricks of "chilean sea bass."

I said, no, it's gotta be something else. Chilean sea bass is totally endangered and illlegal to fish, buy, and sell. It's gotta be something else.


1 comment:

myrna said...

Wala nang Chilean seabass, hindi na hinuhuli, hindi na pinagbibili sa restaurant, beri pangit na isda. Iyon na lang regular na seabass.