Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Mixed Messages

Natalie Hunter is not Keith, but rather a guest blogger. She grew up wanting to be a teacher, and is addicted to learning and research. As a result she is grateful for the invention of the Internet because it allows her to spend some time outside, rather than just poring through books in a library. She is fascinated by the different methodologies for education at large today, and particularly by the advent of online education. She also loves to travel and learn via interaction with other people and cultures.

I've been learning new languages all my life. English is supposedly my native language, but it took me years to learn it well enough to speak it. In the years after becoming better at English I took many other languages in the hopes that I would find one I could more easily express myself in. Several of these languages I took very seriously, never really bothering with things like online school but instead traveling to places where they were the dominant language with hardly a word in my memory bank to assist me once I got there. It took me three months in Taiwan to learn how to ask where the bathroom is!

switching circuits by Ryan Somma
One side effect of this sort of learning I'm sure many people have experienced is mixing up my languages. I have terrible dreams where I'm speaking a mixture of Japanese and Chinese to try and interact with someone speaking some unintelligible mishmash of gibberish interspersed with Mongolian. In daily life I will often catch myself before using the wrong term in whatever language I am speaking, and then spend an awkward moment fumbling for the correct word, even in English. Very rarely I won't catch myself among my monolingual friends, which can be embarrassing although they all say they enjoy learning from me.

This sort of mixed speech, when deliberately done, is called code-switching when spoken and macaronic language when written.