I’m borrowing this title from a post I wrote way back in the early days of this blog. Hence the ‘bis’ which as you probably know means ‘encore’ or something added, as in another address of the same number. Let’s call this one 2013 bis.
My first tongue — mother, naturally — came to life early on and was unstoppable. I was a talker from the most tender age. Family lore has it that my younger brother never said much because I did all the talking for him. I must have tired of this after a while though, or been scolded into silence, because as I grew up I became a lot more selective about who I spoke to, preferring to retreat into silence in social situations until sure of my footing. Then you can’t shut me up.
When I began learning la langue de Molière a few decades later, I quickly learned to think carefully before speaking because, well, the French don’t let you get away with much. Eventually French became more or less second nature and I stopped worrying about making mistakes or using words that don’t technically exist. Ce n’est pas oblig!
My third tongue I suspect will not be as fluent as the previous two. I am a lot older, if only occasionally wiser, going into this linguistic adventure. But far less afraid.
I have begun what they call a semi-intensive course of German A1 level here in our town: two hours twice a week. We are a group of six beginners: A Greek woman who works as a chef, a Czech woman whose boyfriend plays soccer on the local team, two Portuguese guys both of whom are called André (what’s the chance of that?) and a single mother who is a Tibetan refugee. And moi, the doyenne (elder) of the group. They are all half or perhaps even a third of my age.
On the first day the teacher asked us how long we had been in Switzerland (English is the default language, lucky for me). When I said I’d only just moved here, he seemed surprised. I explained about living near Geneva and working in the French-speaking part of Switzerland since 2007.
“So you’ve actually been here much longer. Geneva is also in Switzerland,” he reminded me. Yes, but…! I thought but didn’t manage to articulate. My tongue had decided to retreat into my head out of respect for the teacher’s superior knowledge.
I guess he had a point, but it does feel like moving to the German-speaking part of this small but complex land here in Central Switzerland is like moving to another country.
“And have you taken German lessons before?” asked the teacher. I shook my head. No. Nein!
“Ah, so this is your first German class?” I nodded dumbly, thinking: Yes, I am a German virgin.
Thankfully by then my tongue was well and truly silent.
I suspect my third tongue will give me trouble, as have the other two. But hopefully by the time I start wielding it I’ll have a few more words in my vocabulary than Ich spreche kein Deutch.
How about you? Do you feel comfortable speaking in tongues?