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
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…