Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back To Language Basics

My friend Rachael can speak the language from Papua New Guinea as fluently as she does English, and that impressed me. For a while I hadn't been around people that spoke anything other than English and Spanish well, and I was getting bored, so this was something refreshing, and it inspired me to tap back into languages I used to know or learn some new ones. At one time, I spoke up to 6 languages well, but it's all eroded into a heavily accented English breeze. I tend to mumble much these days, have a very low voice volume (I swear it sounds really loud inside my head - that's why), and it affects how I communicate.

Some people like the accent (sounds more British than anything normally), but a majority others don't get it. People place me as being from the islands (Caribbean) and others wonder soon enough where I am from when I speak. Thing is: my accent is all languages I ever spoke rolled into one thick thing - the intonations, the phonetics, and expressiveness of my voice are heavily influenced by the African languages I learned as a child. Depending on what mood I am in (tired, stressed, happy, cheezy, etc), you might hear something different. Sometimes I can be really hard to understand ... and yet other times I'm as clear as day. My family doesn't notice anymore and for a long time I didn't care.

This year I'm doing something I enjoy much: learning languages. I started English (??) this week with my friend Jessica's mom coaching me (which I think she does professionally). On the side, I am also working through a French series using software by Topics Entertainment (Instant Immersion French Deluxe v2.0). The software has speech recognition features and some pretty good exercises to get you up to speed. If you have never spoken or learned French, even the beginner level is not for you - you need some background for this software to be useful at all. I sound ridiculous now repeating words and sentences many times over, but that's how I'll get back in the groove.
As I worked through the French series, I realized how much my experience as a musician helps me: I "sing"/sound the words and sentences I hear, and that's the only way I get them right. If I can't hear it, I can't say it - even if I can read it and understand it. I think I have an ability to imitate sounds quite well. Languages are my newest escape from the daily grind of computers, programming, music, and the social others.

After English and French, I'll be back to Swahili and Arabic (build on the little I knew), and then get caught up with other African languages. Some new languages I'd like to learn: Spanish or German. I'm not messing with Chinese and other Asian languages, like Ben and Megan have successfully done. For my friend Rochelle and the huge collection of Brazilian music I have, Portuguese would be an interesting language to pick up, I think.
The key to keeping in shape linguistically is practice, practice, practice. Any chance I have, I'll speak these languages. A while back, I switched to reading my news from French RSS news feeds ... and I haven't missed anything worthwhile on the world scene. That's just a start.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

You impress me!