Saturday, July 19, 2008

Language

After returning from Turkmenistan, I came to the realization that I had lost my handle on English prepositions and some verbs. This may sound strange but I still confuse words like of, at, to and in. Am I "of a mindset" or "in a mindset?" Did we spend the day "in the park" or "at the park?" I really don't know. I also have found that sometimes I have to stop and think about which form of a verb I should use. For example, it is not immediately clear to me that "the box of snacks was open" is correct grammar. My brain hears snacks and I have to stop and think, "Is it 'was open' or 'were open'? What is the subject of the verb?"

Now one would think that for me to lose a pretty basic part of the English language, I must have been quite good at speaking Russian. That would be wrong. I spent my entire time in the Peace Corps struggling with a language that didn't make ANY sense to me. If I encountered someone on the street and they couldn't make out what I was trying to say, I would slip into French. Surely if they didn't understand my Russian, maybe I'd be luckier with another foreign language! It didn't work. I have a somewhat disturbing memory of being asked by a man in Turkmenistan how much I was paid. (A frequent question there.) I replied that I worked "naked" instead of "for free" which is what I intended. The subtle difference in those words was lost on me for several months but the idea that I might be considered a prostitute was not.

It is with all this in mind that I consistently marvel at Vivi's facility with language. She was asking for her "privacy" at around 18 months and tells elaborate stories today- sometimes true, sometimes not. She's also really good at quoting us. Here are some recent examples:
  • Me: "Let's go for a walk."
  • Vivi: "How 'bout we stop at bakery? Get a cookie."

  • "Mom, I need to go poop real quick. Be right back."

  • Vivi: "Mama, I want to tell you secret."
  • Me: "Okay, what is it?"
  • Vivi whispering: "I love you, mom."

  • Me: "Good job on the potty! Would you like a gummy bear or a pretzel?"
  • Vivi: "I'm thinking about it."

  • "Mama, G.G. (her friend) tried to drink Sara coffee but Sara say, 'No. No. Jose.' G.G. biiiiigggg rascal!"

  • After spilling some water, "Mom, accidents happen!"

She must get this from my husband.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, language can be hard. I've found that the more that I study them the harder it is to use them. It became really hard for me when I worked as a test evaluator. We were grading students on vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, etc. That was when I thought to myself, "Holy cow! I thought I knew my native language!" My inner nerd tells me that I should know whether in or at the park is correct but the rest of me says "who cares?" I know what you meant.

    ReplyDelete