Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fluency: Day 1,892

Things are still on hold as we wait to see what is happening with elections and the new government; however, that hasn't put my brain on hold.  As I rode back home with my handsomer half yesterday, I reflected on language fluency and what it means to be fluent.  And it's something I think about more as I start to incorporate a third language into my brain.  A long time ago, I studied German, and it was probably my #2 language.  I won't pretend that I was ever as good at it as I am with Spanish today, but it was enough there that I don't anticipate a hardship at putting it back in my brain.  However, both times I have learned it, I have learned it as an English speaker.

I've come to the conclusion that being bi- (or tri- or quad- or whatever-)lingual is not about constructing language but rather about breaking it down.  There are things I can say in English that I cannot say in Spanish, but there are also things I can say in Spanish that I can't really say in English just because the sentiment doesn't exist or because it is complicated and contorted.

So, when I consider German and the small amount of German which I do know now, I struggle because my German is tied to my English, not my Spanish.  My handsomer half has two nieces, and the younger one now calls him Tio Ente.  "Ente" in German is "Duck" in English.  And when it made me giggle, and he asked me why, I told him, "Ente es aleman para duck, er, pato."  (My handsomer half speaks only Spanish; although he is trying to learn English.)  And I realized that learning German as an English speaker is not helping me to break down the language.  If I can't go from German to Spanish without English in the middle, can I really claim to be fluent in Spanish?

What is it?  Duck?  Ente?  Pato?
It's all of those and none of those.
It's a bird that swims and goes quack.

I don't expect to need my German and my Spanish in the same place at the same time, but as a result of my discovery, I'm planning on studying German as a Spanish-speaker as well.