Sunday, July 5, 2009

Anniversary Reflections

We're now officially in July and you know what that means?! It's now just 2 weeks shy of two years since I started this mad adventure. Shock and awe!!

I could go on and on about what this experience has meant to me - actually I have, ad nauseum via this blog :-) But maybe the quickest way to capture how much I've been changed is through a look at how my language has changed. It may seem superficial on the surface, but language (grammar, spelling, usage) has always been an integral and deliberate part of how I present myself to the world. And changes therein have always represented core shifts in how I see myself and feel about who I've become.

Coat of arms of Jamaica.
I remember moving to Miami from Jamaica when I was nine. How strange everything was - flat, wide open, covered in tarmac. But, the greatest point of friction was the differences in language. I was a native English-speaker, but Jamaican English and it's Patois counterpart were not the same as American English. And, of course, as the outsider, my way was the wrong way. Not only did I sound strange with my Jamaican accent - it would be several years before I got the benefit of sounding "exotic" once I moved away from Florida - but the King's English that I spoke and wrote actually got me in trouble. It took several months for me to start getting the A's on spelling tests that I always strove for (and deserved!) because I would refuse or forget to spell words without the "u". Humor, color, flavor, etc.

Then I moved here to Ireland, and I started getting noticed for the weirdest thing! Suddenly, my language and accent started identifying me to others as American!! And, again, I was exotic. Ahh, how I'd missed it :-)

Now I found myself going through a strangely familiar experience. Holding on to my "normal" way of saying things while feeling acutely aware of sticking out by sounding different. The local way of saying things sounded both strange and fascinating. If I'd found myself somewhere that spoke a foreign language, I'd have been eager to try it out and show my respect by trying to make myself understood in the local lingua franca. But, because it was still (technically) English, I was resistant to the idea of making a fool of myself by trying to sound Irish. Plus, why give up being "exotic" again? I like being different. I was unique again.

Ah, but time moves on and before you know it you've been infected! First it was the little lilt at the end of every sentence. Then, it was substituting the gentle inquiry-style sentence for the brash, direct American one ("Will we go to the pub?" vs. "Let's go get a drink"). Now? Now, I'm stuck. I hear myself choosing to use the Irish vocabulary automatically, but it's too late, I've already said it - "That's grand", "Ring me", "Your new car's boot is tiny!", "Take the lift to the 3rd floor", "Where's your toilet" or "I've got to go to the loo".

The truth is I've almost stopped wincing every time I hear myself. The next step will be to not even notice what I'm saying. I've already found myself searching for the American term for certain words and concepts - how do you say "tailback" in American again? The process is well on it's way and clearly there's nothing I can do about it outside of abandoning my new life here and going back to the States.

Nah, I'll just live with it. Happily.

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Viajera said...

I TOTALLY feel you about the words and our language.
TWO years?! I remember you scoffing at me last year wheen I assumed last year was the 2nd year. :D
Good on ya mate. Congrats!

Niamh Griffin said...

Congratulations:) That's a serious barrier to have crossed.

It's funny to read what you said about becoming Irish in your language, I've found that my speech is so littered with Americanisms and Australianisms that I had to re-learn some Irish things. But luckily like you said, it's pretty contagious. But learning a whole new language is definitely more exciting than just fine-tuning the first one!

Sirmelja said...

Now now Viajera, I'm sure I was much more insulting than just "scoffing" :-)

Fine-tuning, reclaiming... Niamh, it's still work!

Lita said...

I adore Cork and I'm pretty jealous you're living there.

Team Jacob said...

I still use the U lol

do not tell me it's wrong lol