Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Mother Tongue vs. Other Tongues

Sometimes there's a nice mellow cool in the air and I decide to listen to some old Iranian singers. I go on Youtube and play some Simin Ghanem or Googoosh. Then I think to myself: "Isn't the music of Persian language much more pleasing to the ear?" It has to be the intonation, much like French I suppose.

Then I go out on the streets of Montreal and try to talk to people in French. Sometimes it works fine and we communicate in French: they, in Quebecoise --I, in a mixture of Parisienne and Quebecoise. But sometimes they don't want to let me practice my miserable French and immediately switch to English. I don't let them. I carry on in French. Then they answer in English. I reply in French. They answer in English. I, again, reply in French. If you're not strict with them, they'll walk all over you.

And all the while in my head I'm thinking in a mixture of Persian, English and French, which sometimes makes speaking even harder as I remember a word in Persian and then look for its synonym in English but only remember what it was called in French. This almost exclusively happens for concrete words, like: "mushroom, champignon, قارچ". It doesn't happen for, say, "life", or "better". Sentences easily come to my mind without the process of translating from my mother tongue to my new language ever occurring. But when I'm looking at things, things at which I have also looked in my homeland, I will sometimes remember their names only in my mother tongue. If I go to a grocery store and look for basil, sometimes basil is not there because I am actually looking for ریحان. This is the most adorable aspect of second-language speaking to me. Things remain for you solely in your mother tongue for years without adapting themselves to your new environment.

I have written about this before. The pictorial aspect of language just bewilders me.


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