I’ve recently decided that one of my lifelong goals is to be near-native fluent in as many languages as possible before I finally pass on for good, which, on closer inspection, is a rather ill-defined goal. Just how many is “as many as possible”? Have I failed already because my Mum wouldn’t let me learn French when I had the chance 10 years ago? Does “Here lies Vickie / Who spoke a dozen languages / But still died anyway” really make a cooler epitaph?
Anyhow, when I learn a new language, I like to make myself think in that language before I allow myself to do anything fun. You want to eat? Say it in the new language first. You want to play? Say it in the new language first. You want to pee? … Oh screw it, just go pee.
Yes, I talk to myself a lot.
That night, I’d wanted to watch TV. Easy! They always teach you how to say “watch TV”. Should I spice it up a bit? Yes I should. Adjectives, adverbs, time clause, reason clause… And so I said the full sentences in that mysterious new language. It was grammatically correct and I sounded exactly like an awkward native speaker who had to justify watching TV. Damn am I talented.
“And with that, Vickie,” I thought to myself in English, “you may now open the TV*.”
Wait. No. No. No no no. Noooooooooo.
Perhaps I should work on my
sipping seeping sleeping slipping English first…
*In Chinese, most things are opened / open (開). You don’t turn on and off the lights or other electrical appliances; you “open” and “close” them. You don’t attend or hold a meeting; you “open” a meeting. You don’t fire a gun; you “open gun”. Flowers don’t bloom; they “open”.
In case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t let myself watch TV that night.