I’ve been thinking a lot about language of late. Quick backstory: ten years ago I began learning German. I was good at it, in my beginner’s level class at high school. I liked it, and so I stuck with it. As the years progressed, fewer people took it. By my last year, I was one of about ten people in the class.
I took it up at university, and have since been out of university for a year. I haven’t studied or read or heard or written or spoken it in at least two years.
Even so, the language follows me around. Maybe I was too effective at learning the language, as evidenced by the following tale. The other day, I sat down to write my usual blog post. All in English, predominantly because I am comfortable with English and also because it’s very simple for me to compose fiction in it. (Though the other day was a landmark day because I scratched together a haiku in German) I wrote happily, published the post and clicked view it – I always do to check the way it looks – and then blinked in bewilderment.
My brain tricked me, and continues to do so, much to my confusion. Those two words were English. My quick internet search shows that in fact one of those words is also a functioning German word, much to my surprise. No, actually… both of them are of Germanic origin. I have been blithely going about my life not knowing these. You see, when I wrote that post, my brain told me the words were German. “Sarah,” it said to me, “these words are not English. They are German.”
I argued with myself for three days, back and forth. I’m still not convinced of them being either language – by this point I am convinced they are simply Denglisch, and done with it. Just now I typed in my weekly quote and silently translated it along, not even intending to do so.
This brings me to the quote of the week. I don’t quite apply it to myself; I’m not quite sure yet what parts of myself speaking German is unlocking. It’s something to work on. Incidentally, I came up with a new challenge for myself: post one piece of short fiction or poetry per week, in German.
The more you speak more languages, the more you understand about yourself.