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Second-language medley - #1 – Tongue-tied

Being something of a transplant from one place to another, one culture to another, one language or regional dialect variation to another, is rather a common variation on a theme in Cafh, in its Communities, and for so many many other assorted people all over the world, through time, and very especially in these, our times of massive population movements.  The other way around applies, too – with some of one’s companions & co-workers coming from other climes & backgrounds, and us having to merge in and be bridges, everybody on all sides having to deal with those quirky, sometimes irritating, sometimes enchanting foreign ways.

Though there have been some other twists of the tale (like Colombians getting socially acclimatized to Chile, or Argentines to Brazil), for many of us here that has mainly been a process of North Americans getting used to Latin culture and Spanish, and of South Americans getting immersed in “gringo-land” and English. That’s spawned quite a lot that could be reciprocally shared of all these so-similar yet so-distinct experiences, the instructive, the funny, the harmonious, the culture-shock miscommunications and noise.

For understanding the lingo, so much depends on those divergent modalities of culture, history, ethnic influences, etymologies…; on and on. Not to mention body language and gestures – a whole other kettle of fish! What in the world does that wagging finger mean? Or that scrunched-up nose? That jut of the chin? And physical distances from each other? how close is too close, intimidating and presumptuous; or not close enough, cold, arrogant, unfriendly; or in that just right sweet spot, putting people at ease?

For sure it’s a joint, team effort, multi-directional multi-dimensional experience – learning/teaching from/to each other, from others’ “mistakes”, when someone tries to imperfectly give “corrections”, finding how much changing accents, opinions, moods and styles play a part, finding you never really knew your own language all that well and must learn more, dig deeper, expand contexts. In the process, who hasn’t been made fun of, laughed at – or maybe shared the joke together; or even sometimes unfairly, too, at others’ expense. Speaking or writing Spanglish, for better or worse – and getting so used to it that you can’t always tell the difference?  We all need to have patience, learn to care for one another…

Probably one never reaches an end point, where one can really say “it’s over, I’ve learned, I’m finished;” – unless you yourself dig your heels in, have “had enough,” and decide, “Enough! I’ve arrived.” Perhaps one recognizable milestone, though, is when you’re no longer routinely translating, directly and awkwardly, practically word for word, but rather just speaking & thinking in it, flipping back & forth seamlessly between the two tongues.

It’s good to find you’re dreaming at night in this new language, where it’s natural, not strange at all. And maybe a key is getting that “taste” for the language, a love for it – when you feel and appreciate the beauty and meaning, the history and all that’s gone into it… Maybe yes, then, in a certain sense, you have indeed arrived, and everybody around you has arrived somehow, too, along with you, together.

Light Oh Resplendent One
The Morning of the Indigo Bunting

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