Do you speak normal? – Find out whether you do or not!

English – a universal language

Language isn’t a big issue as long as you don’t travel much to foreign countries, don’t work for an import/export company, trust translators to do a good job with the novels of your favourite authors, or don’t intend to move to another country, unlike we did. Apparently, English is the world language with the highest number of speakers. If it would only be for the native speakers, English wouldn’t come out on top, but it is the world’s most used lingua franca, which means that people who have a different native tongue use it as a common language in conversations. And that can come in very handy at times. When I visited Rome about 10 years ago, I conversed in English mostly. Although I did an extracurricular Italian course during highschool, and while I lived in Germany, I loved to go to a “ristorante” and place my order in Italian, rather than saying, “I would like to have #5, # 12 and # 21”, it is far from being enough to actually converse with people. No matter whether English is your native tongue or, like it is to me, a second language, (0r maybe even your third?), you and I are two of the 1800 million people that speak it.

English – the second language in my life

I consider myself bilingual (English and German), though I know some French too, but don’t feel quite as comfortable using it. For me this means that English has infiltrated my life, not only on the outside, but also what happens on the inside – in my thoughts and my dreams, where, funny enough, sometimes people speak English that don’t even know the language. Unless we have company, we continue to speak our thick, but lovely Southwestern German dialect (Swabian) at home. But our conversations are not as purely in German as they used to be. Some English words and phrases slip into it, because our brain has them more readily available than the German equivalent. The same goes the other way. Some German, and especially Swabian words, are just too hard to translate.

English – in the eye of the beholder

This is especially true for my husband, who has been struggling with the language more than any of us after we moved to Canada. One time, probably about two or three years ago, our granddaughter, who at that time was simply our son’s girlfriend’s daughter, was staying with us for the weekend. Besides being smart and totally adorable, she is a bubbly one and needs space and opportunity to be active. One of her favourite things was to use the armchair as a climbing tree and sit on the headrest, which she wasn’t supposed to do and also knew this quite well. So Hubby picked her off the chair, hugged her and said something that freely translates to “You are such a rascal!” Of course our granddaughter didn’t understand the actual words, but was aware that he hadn’t quite paid her a compliment. She came to me, fists on her hips, all puffed up and declared: “I don’t speak German! I speak NORMAL!”

There you have it. English = Normal. And you do speak it. I think, next time I am asked what languages I know, I’ll say: “Normal, German, and a little French!”


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