Thursday, August 19, 2004

Additive Bilingualism

"The majority of the world's population are bi- or multilingual. Even so, monolingualism often gets treated as the norm."

I know that I am in the minority on this one... I have often wondered how much of my thinking is impacted by the language I know. This has led me to ponder:

  • How would my thinking change if I learned a second language?

I have talked with people about the process of learning a second language. Often times, these bilinguals describe to me, with great fondness, their first memories of dreaming in their second language. That has always sounded amazing and wondrous to me...

    I hope I get the chance to dream in another language -- I wonder what I will say in the dream -- what if I don't understand myself? :-)

The first three months of Peace Corps service are spent in intensive language and cultural training. These first months are spent living in the host country with a host family. When the three months are completed, volunteers are sent to a new location in the host country where they will usually serve out their two years working with their host country counterpart. Volunteers do not learn their final destination until halfway through the language and cultural training.

I have been given the following expectations regarding language and culture:

  • After the first three months of training, I will only have a rudimentary grasp of the language and culture.
  • I will make cultural mistakes.
  • Sometime after a year I will begin to feel comfortable with the language and the culture.
  • It can get pretty lonely until language and cultural proficiency occurs.
  • People may treat me in a child-like way because of my lack of language skills.

I am very excited about actually knowing another language, and because of some strange wiring in my head; I am just as excited about going through the process of learning a new language and culture -- mistakes and all!

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