Language immersion for linguistic freaks
Posted on May 4, 2015, by joomy, in: language

I wasn’t planning to write a post about this, but this tweet made me think more about the language issues I have/had:

Lucky for me, reading programming documents is not a big deal for me at all, but speaking still can be very self-conscious from time to time.

The problems I have about adapting to an English-speaking environment is one of the topics I mention very often. I’m pretty sure my friends are fed up with hearing about this, so this post can be seen as an apology and explanation on the issue. 1 2

I have my reasons for bringing up this topic: Speaking English is such a hassle for perfectionist linguistic freaks like me. I have moved far beyond the times that I pause and think about the words to utter, unless I just switched languages five minutes ago, I am not self-conscious about my word choices. Whatever words come out of my mouth, I do not always pick them very wisely. There are two issues about this:

The first one is that even though I have access to the right word choices sometimes, those word choices are not the first to pop up in my mind. Then I feel the need to go back and change what I said, and constantly thinking about this is definitely not a very sane way of thinking. A similar issue arises on grammar, I very recently said “I would tell you if I was busy, …, I mean, were busy. Subjunctive!!!”.

The second one is that when I don’t have access to the right word choices. For example, I say “to send homework” instead of “to submit homework”, and then bash myself for saying so, even though that completely conveys the meaning, and it probably doesn’t even sound awkward, yet it is annoying to me that a native speaker would know what to say 3, and I don’t.

Another instance of the lack of right word choices is, obviously, missing vocabulary. Being able to decorate my words with a vast vocabulary is a luxury that I enjoy greatly in my native tongue; being stripped of this comfort is disturbing but acceptable. However, getting stuck in the middle of what I am saying is hard to tolerate for me, even though it happens very rarely. One could argue that these “missing” words in my vocabulary would be filled in time, but it makes me feel like a patchy tire that slighly blows out no matter how much I try to patch it.

Living in a different language is essentially a form of exile.

  1. I just learned that “apologia” [απολογία] literally means “explanation” in Greek. Redundant much?

  2. Referring to the first footnote: “x, much?” is such an interesting grammatical construct, I had to search it to confirm that I am correct in my usage. Here you go.

  3. I ended up asking a friend about the issue. My friend told me that “they do have slight differences and would seem more or less natural depending on the context”. Fair enough.