I just had my first German lesson. It was an hour and a half of learning numbers, how to say “what is that, who is that, this is a country, this is a city…” Basic stuff, but it was fun to concentrate on something totally unfamiliar. It was a break from work, from home, TV, everything I’m use to.
It’s funny, language has played such an important part in my life over the years. I grew up speaking Spanish at home. My mother learned how to speak English watching American soaps on a black and white TV as my brother and I grew up. My first few words were a blend of English and Spanish and I simply took it for granted that everyone knew what I was saying all the time. To this day, my father has only uttered a few words to me in English my whole life and whenever my mother and I want to keep a secret, we switch in and out between languages, depending on our audience.
I took French now and then over the years, addicted to French films and the smooth tones of the language. I like being able to order in restaurants and to read the street signs in the Metro. La Cité des enfants perdus, by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet is still one of my favourite films.
I love the sounds and textures of language, each one a treasure chest waiting to be unlocked. But, for all their complexity, words are simply the tools of communication. They need depth, feeling and craft in order to carry meaning to others. Like an artist at his easel, without dedication, practice and understanding, they can be as clumsy as a finger painting or a stick figure.
Strange, for all the possibilities of language, despite my love of all the weird and wonderful sounds, I can’t seen to get past a certain level in any language, not even English.
I’m hoping that someday, with lots and lots of practice, I’ll master the art of speaking the right words, at the right time, to the right people. Wish me luck.