Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Leaving Spanish Behind

I realized recently that in leaving this country, I am leaving much more than a culture. I am leaving all the details too—the stray dogs that still make my heart pound just a little faster, biking up cerro san cristobal (and being practically sick watching those stupid runners climb up it faster than I can on my bike), ayoom and this special house with the perfect lighting and the perfect temperature during the summer. I leave Kanke and Belen and Prema and all the hippies that are sort of half friends who always seem to have homemade incense in their pockets.

I leave behind Pollo.

But the thing that really gets me (besides the obvious leaving behind of my love) is that if I'm not too careful, I lose a language in leaving, too. And darn it, I barely got comfortable! I was beginning to joke. Talking on the phone in Spanish was not as difficult as it had been. Given a good spanish day, it was downright enjoyable. I could even argue in Spanish (trust me, this is impressive).

Having a second language is not like a riding a bike, where even if you don't ride a bike for ten years, you still know how to ride. It's more like getting a piercing. If you don't wear the earring, the hole closes up. It leaves a scar, but it closes up. If you want to wear earrings again, you've got to start the process all over again.

What comes to mind is the scene from Awakenings with Robert DeNiro. A new medicine allows him to awaken from his catatonic state. He feels absolutely alive. But the medicine's effects wear off and he finds himself slipping back into the catatonic state he had been in. The knowledge of knowing he's slipping back...that's the worst part.

I feel a panic there, thinking about slipping back into the fog of a single language. I just don't want to watch it happen. I don't want to talk to Pollo on the phone and know that I know less Spanish than the week before.

Pollo has a TV that allows you listen to several programs in either the English version or translated into Spanish. I need this capability in America--either the TV or something I can implant in my brain for automatic translations.

And a lot of motivation....

So when you see me watching Dog Whisperer in English, remind me of this post. And make me change it to the Spanish version.

No comments: