Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Not *quite* fluent...

I have learned several languages in my life—some for speaking, some for reading. There are lots of aspects to learning a new language, from the basic vocabulary, to the different forms of verbs (and nouns, in some languages), to grammar rules, to pronunciation and inflection, etc.

There are also stages to learning a language.
There’s the stage when all you can do is say ridiculous things that bear no resemblance to conversation, because for some reason discussing the cat on the chair or under the table or whatever is the way to learn. (I’ve never quite understood this, but...yeah.)

There’s the stage when you can read relatively well but speaking is still a bit beyond your ability.

There’s the stage when you can speak decently, and though no one would mistake you for a native, they might mistake you for someone who can understand them if they speak back to you at their normal speed.

There’s the stage when you dream in the new language, and that’s usually a sign you’re headed for fluency.

When it comes to my Familiarisation process, I would say I’m somewhere between those last two stages. I feel like, as I try to work out things like Remembrance and Christingles and Watchnight, and to navigate the search process which is far more different from the PCUSA than I think most of us realise, I am at the stage of language acquisition where I can speak decently enough, but when someone starts talking to me I still have to spend a significant amount of energy translating to my native tongue before I can proceed in the conversation.

This is also true of basic life things like temperature (I’ve got my weather app on Celsius because it seems like I should be able to figure that out, but I’m definitely translating that to Fahrenheit in my mind when I want to know which coat to wear in the morning)...and cooking, where directions will say things like “use 200 ml of water to cook 40g of quinoa per serving” (I’m so glad I brought my American measuring cups in my suitcase, lol!)...etc.

So...all of that to say, I may look like I’m getting the hang of things, little by little, but I’m still translating inside my mind and that makes me slow to figure out what you’re talking about, or what I’m supposed to do next, or what to expect from the search process or communication norms or what “lay a wreath” means exactly, or which tunes the Christmas carols are sung to (hint: all different than they are in the US!), or how the order of worship is both the same and different from where I am right now and from all my previous experiences.

But my dreams are here, and use at least some of the language and images and culture, so I’m calling that a good sign. :-)

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