Musings on Language


The thing about language is that it is inextricably tied to the way we perceive the world. And as I prepare to go back to Mandarin classes (and realize that, despite my efforts, I have retained only the sketchiest outlines of the previous two levels), I cannot help but wonder how this very paragraph would look written in it.

I can see myself writing mostly the same thing in Portuguese and (with some effort) even French or Spanish, but I cannot even begin to fathom the degree of proficiency I need to attain to be able to write in Mandarin with a tenth of the vocabulary and flair I am currently able to muster in other languages.

Maybe it’s a matter of just getting the ball rolling in some fashion – but I’ve been meaning to start writing even the simplest of posts in Mandarin, and so far have come up with zilch worth reading.

Truth be told that the mannerisms I have acquired years of reading and writing English are like a comfortable pair of slippers, but my daily routine is so far from what I can currently express in Mandarin that it’s hardly sporting.

Anyway, all of this musing stems from a discussion over lunch about whether or not a few of us ought to learn Spanish – in the sense that we can understand Spanish pretty well (I read it routinely) but we don’t practice writing or speaking it – which places us in the awkward position of trying to speak English to Spaniards most of the time (with us understanding them perfectly whatever they speak, and just about as much success as if we were speaking Portuguese).

I must say that although I dismissed the notion offhand at the time, it would be intriguing to give it a try.

Time will, as usual, tell. If I ever find enough of it.


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