Sunday, 7 August 2016

A New Language Blog And Not By Accident

I was reluctant to start this blog. Wasn’t it, perhaps, just a bit too ‘special interest’? Too nerdy? Head-too-far-up-my-own-arse…?

I’d been ruminating over starting a dedicated language blog for the past couple of years, but couldn’t decide on which angle to take with it. Then, a few months ago, the idea of keeping it focused on everyday life (meaning my life in particular) lodged itself into my head.

I mean, there are already plenty of useful blogs out there focusing on learning techniques, language app evaluations, the ins and outs of bilingual parenting, not forgetting the ubiquitous “my placement year abroad” authored by sprightly twenty-nothings who refer to the heads of their host families as "Mum" and "Dad". All well and good, I peruse all types of language blogs, but maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't hurt to toss another one into to the mix, one that was about life as suffered experienced by the middle-aged, slightly grumpy contingent of language enthusiasts whose memory is starting to conk out on them? A blogger friend suggested the title "MyMidlifeLanguageCrisis", but that would have cut, quite possibly, a bit too close close to the bone... ahem.

Amusing as well as exasperating situations arise when, instead of chugging along on a monolingual rail tied to one country and one culture, one’s life runs on multiple tracks. Keeping all those plates spinning can be exhausting, but it's uniquely rewarding at the same time.

Since early June, I've been keeping a “Language diary”. The key objective, besides gathering source material for the blog, was to record and reflect upon when, how and why I was using my languages throughout the day. This is when I realised a couple of things.

First of all, it struck me that most of what I wrote down was utterly banal. Some serious doubts manifested themselves at that point - who wants to read “answered an email in English”, “asked the butcher in Spanish to cut some chicken breasts into strips”, “skyped with my Mum in German”? I would have to figure out a way of making it more engaging somehow, but without losing the day-to-dayness of it. Hmmm.

Second, I found that keeping a precise log detailing every single activity and the language used to be an impossible task. There was just too much switching back and forth. I might be reading work-related material in English for twenty minutes, quickly respond to a friend’s message in Spanish, followed by looking up an unknown French word in a Facebook post, then go back to my work until skype bleats at me, and so on.

On the other hand, this exercise underscored the validity of my premise – that my life was indeed multilingual, and inextricably so. It wasn’t a case of spending all day in one language and then consciously having to create a time slot to listen to a French podcast or read a newspaper article in Portuguese (although my day is punctuated by these kinds of activities, too). It showed me that I had already succeeded in what I set out to do half a decade ago when I decided to move to Spain, and that recognition was a satisfying one.

That’s right: none of this happened by accident. I did not just fall into a multilingual existence. Like most people I know, I grew up in a monolingual environment, and I could have chosen, quite easily, to remain there.

I felt drawn to languages since my first contact with English at school, when I was about eleven years old. I don't know why. I decided to follow it, I made choices which led me towards multilingualism, often in roundabout ways, while also trying to do a bunch of other things, since life is never a linear route from A to point B.

Often, my pursuit of languages, or "polyglottery", as a friend calls it, had to go on the back burner for a while, sometimes for years, but it's on the back burner no more. The raison d’être of this blog is to keep tending to it right at the centre of my stove.

Why does it matter, anyway? That will be the topic of the next post…

17 comments:

  1. I do hope you'll be including a record of our hilarious and entertaining emails in English. The world really does need to know about those ;)

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    1. Aw, look, my first comment - and it's YOU :) I am delazoolilighted!

      I might just feed our email natterings directly into this blog, once I figure out how this platform works. On the other hand... it has all the makings of a disastrous idea ;-)

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    2. I'll leave it up to you... you may not wish to lower the tone with our ramblings. Happy new blog!

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    3. Well, since it's just us on here, we may as well let rip :)

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    4. The friend who suggested "My Midlife Language Crisis" sounds hilarious - you should definitely keep her ;)
      Nice concept for a blog - I shall be following with interest! Best of luck with it :)

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    5. She's a bit of a loose cannon, that one ;-)

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  2. I have a deep respect (and jealousy) for people who know what their passion is in life and follow it with their heart open.
    I'm still looking for mine. I'm starting to suspect that my passion in life is simply that - life.

    Although I may be hopelessly uni-lingual, I think your forays into other languages is very interesting and yes, I'm rather jealous of that too ;)

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    1. Thanks for your support, Joanne! I very much have you down as a woman who follows her passion. Look at all you've achieved (and I've only glimpsed a small fraction of it, via your fabulous blog). I don't think it has to be all about the ONE BIG passion. Lots of vibrant little interests, pursued with gusto and commitment, will do the trick just as well.

      I feel sad for people who can't get excited about anything, and where it's not just a bad patch, but a chronic condition.

      Talking of which, I hope you're recovering from your bad patch!

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  3. boy, I wrote this nice comment, then couldn't figure out the "comment as" thing (why did you go to blogspot? I could follow easier on wordpress but I digress....) and then my comments were gone :( I said something like this....

    love the new blog!! and of course I will follow along. another multilingual creature am I! I figured out after spending most of my working life as a finance person of one sort or another that one of my passions is languages and that I probably should have been a Spanish teacher. which now I might do in my retirement years en España....

    good luck with the new blog!

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    1. Hi Toby! Thanks for giving it a second try - how bloody frustrating to lose a well-thought-out comment! Blogspot has brought me close to tears over the past few days with its various eccentricities. It's always hard getting to grips with something new. I just wanted to try a new platform, to see how it worked and what sort of audience it might reach. My WP blog will remain in place. I need a repository for my cakes!

      They'd snap you up as an English teacher in Spain. As a Spanish teacher, probably not so much ;-)



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  4. and it looks like my comment wasn't published?? agh!! okay, it went something like this...

    um, yea, that's what I meant: teaching English in Spain! Darn languages anyway ;)

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    1. Yes, darn them, for confusing us even more than we already were!!! Let's go lie in a darkened room for a while... if Fritz lets us ;-)

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  5. Maybe it will let me comment under my other identifier - we'll see if you can guess who I am. I found this interesting and only wish you'd have put all this stuff in your cake blog like you always did.

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    1. Clara's Mom... I have no idea! Shame on me... go on, reveal yourself and mortify me ;-) Sorry if you've had trouble commenting, I hope google is going to get this sorted soon. They shouldn't be making this so darn difficult :( I've always wanted to have a specialist language blog :) I'm going to give it a bit longer, this blogspot experiment. Am still on a learning curve myself with it. Pls stick around :)

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  6. I came upon your blog, I am finding it quite interesting.
    I am not multilingual, just bilingual (but here in the United States that is more than many can say). I am a retired Spanish teacher, and I have traveled extensively in Mexico, as well as in Spain and South America.
    This year I have been trying to teach myself some German. I was planning on visiting my distant cousins in Switzerland. Even though they speak English, and I realize that Swiss German is like a language unto itself, I thought it would be nice to know a bit of German. I was teaching myself on a website called "Duolingo", and I was making some progress. I could even conjugate a few verbs in the present tense. It was becoming increasingly difficult, however, and I figured I would quit after my trip.
    Well, I found it great fun to use my little bit of German, and my cousins complimented me on my pronunciation. So am inspired to continue. I am going back and reviewing what I learned, and hope to progress further before I make another trip to Switzerland. Maybe, just maybe, someday I will be able to consider myself borderline trilingual!
    Saludos!

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    1. ¡Hola, encantada! Thanks for dropping by ;-) Yes, Swiss German is quite different, and there's just so many dialects within Switzerland...

      I've just completed the French tree on Duolingo, which was great for an introduction.

      I'm sure you'll succeed. The grammar will take a while to get the hang of, but don't get disheartened. I think good pronunciation is more important than perfect grammar if you want to be understood. If you've been teaching Spanish, then you'll be well aware of not diphthonging most of your vowels as native English speakers tend to do. Makes such a difference!

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  7. Its always good to have tips on good blog posting. As I just started posting comments for blog and faced a lot of rejections. I think your suggestion would be helpful for me. I will let you know if this works for me.

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