February 22, 2011


Are you a multi-tasker? Are you at least a wannabe? Try language learning!!

After struggling in 3 new languages as an adult with varying results, I know how hard it can be. BUT I also know about the victories inherent in the process. For those of you still in the throes of it, you are probably looking forward to MAKING RELATIONSHIPS, COMMUNICATING, becoming a PRODUCTIVE MEMBER of your community and gaining INSIDERSHIP into your HOST CULTURE.

But have you considered the following advantages?

1. The ability to reprimand your kids in a language no one around can understand.
2. The ability to reprimand your husband in a language no one around can understand.
3. Being able to have more friends (you probably thought of this one).
4. Being able to choose words from more than one language to express your exact sentiment.
5. Having an excuse for early onset Alzheimer-like symptoms as you stuff all that new information in your brain.
6. Mixing languages within your family and having a good excuse for miscommunication.
7. Being able to laugh (in private) at others´use of English because (1) you know the struggle and (2) it´s just so funny!
7. Being able to multi-task.

What do I mean , you ask?

Sometimes you come across words in your new language that mean several things at once. In Morocco, I loved learning one word or phrase that I could milk for about 15 minutes of conversation. For example:

you: Labas? (how are you?)

friend: Labas. (fine.)

you: Labas Fatima? (how is Fatima?)

friend: Labas. (fine.)

you: Labas Mohammed?

friend: Labas.

"Labas" is one of my multi-task words. I learned one word and could use it for both "How are you?" and "I´m fine." Can you see me smiling? This works in Italy, too, I found. Learn "ciao" and you already know how to say Hello AND Good-bye! The same in Hawaii with "aloha" (you might not get to use that one very often).

Then there are what I call "free" words. They are the ones that you don´t have to learn in your new language because you already know them! How cool is that?! Like coup or รก la mode in French. Like zapat in Arabic (zapato in Spanish). Like taco or siesta in Spanish. You gotta love these little freedom fighters.

It goes without saying that you can also do cultural & linguistic multi-tasking by doing such things as: reading the newspaper in Farsi and drinking your tea English-style, cooking up some Italian pasta while you talk on the phone in Mandarin with a friend, kill filipino cockroaches while you correct an American kid´s homework or jam with some gypsies on Spanish guitars in a Moroccan-style salon in an American home (that last one would be yours truly)! I know you can think of so many other cool ways.

So, I´m gonna fix me some Argentine mate while I write in English for an international audience just before my Mexican fajita lunch!

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