May 25, 2012

Speaking of languages

One of the things I love about Costa Rica is how open the Ticos are to me, this girl from the US who decided to plop herself down in the middle of their lives and doesn't want to leave. Everyone's been super friendly, and they all seem truly interested in getting to know me. Along with the usual questions (where are you from, how long have you been here, do you like Costa Rica), I get asked a lot if I like Spanish.

It's a simple question with a less simple answer, an answer that I have a hard time translating with my limited language skills. But I think that the response is relevant enough to this blog to post here, because it has everything to do with understanding cultures and what not.

In short, my answer is "Umm, I guess so. I mean it's just a language..." Let me explain why:

When you don't understand a language, you hear it differently than if you were to be fluent in it. You can't listen for content, so you listen to the sounds. You hear speed, pitch, intonation, kind of like when you listen to a piece of instrumental music. And, like with music, you can find it pretty/ugly/lively/what have you. When we were first picking languages in 7th grade, I chose French over Spanish because I thought it sounded nicer and generally liked it better.

But now that I speak both Spanish and French (and English), I really don't like any one better than the other. Because now, instead of hearing a bunch of sounds, I hear words. I can't notice all the musical-ish parts, because all my brain power goes in to comprehension. Think about it. Excluding things like poetry and those moments where you go "Hehe, that's a weird word...kumquat...hehe", when was the last time you stopped to think about how the English language sounds, whether it's pretty or dull or anything.

Now, they're all the equal, and the important part is what people are using the language to say.

In the event that you actually wanted an update on my life, here's the low down. Everything's going swimmingly. I like my family, I like my job, I like that the rain has made the landscape greener. Tomorrow I'm probably going bungee jumping, which is utterly terrifying. I watched the Champions league final in a German club with German AFSers, which made it all the worse when Munich lost. I've been attempting to teach the parrot at home to whistle Harry Potter.



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