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Mary Terzian

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Which language first?
5/5/2014 11:53:50 AM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

The unforeseen consequences of learning foreign languages.
I suffer from a problem I hope few writers have. When I wake up in the morning, I am not frustrated by a blank screen but by the worry of “Which language will assault me?” in my half-lucidity, even though English is the most frequently-used vernacular in my life nowadays.

I am still vitally attached to my ethnic group, carrying an umbilical chord that will not be cut off. Other languages, through which I waded at one time or another, have become part of my subconscious as well, but, in times of crisis my mother tongue emerges like a jealous lover fighting over the beloved. Certain foreign expressions learned in my lifetime, key words that represent a whole psyche in the original language like "Kvetch, Kismet or Khoutsbah” have seeped into my vocabulary because they are so colorful that they save a whole paragraph of explanations. They defy interpretation. I can’t help introducing these for their intrinsic value.

Thus, caught in a maze of different sounds, my initial morning outpour on the screen is an esperanto of thoughts, waiting to be unscrambled. As I get older I find it hard to recall the exact expression that I need in English, though I remember what it rhymes to, like saying "fit the spot" instead of "hit the spot". An equivalent expression in some other language may be pounding my brains flat. A dictionary will not help, a thesaurus maybe. I may recall the exact word later, give it a day or a month. Then it becomes a triumphant "Eureka!!!" as if I have found a diamond mine. Coming from a different language I have to make doubly sure that I am arranging my words in a comprehensible sequence. You see, words have to fit in just like a song in the right ambiance, literally, musically and emotionally.

When I was a teenager, during one summer vacation I decided to learn all the words in our French dictionary by heart. Tall job. I am still sorry I didn't. It might have kept my mind lucid, but then . . . my English might have suffered from the multicultural jargon that would follow. I would become a writer with scant readers. I’m glad the "Kiss (keep it simple, stupid!) principle, helped me stay on the right track. You do understand what I am writing about, don’t you?

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More Blogs by Mary Terzian
•  Which language first? - Monday, May 05, 2014  
• Hacked but triumphant - Tuesday, January 28, 2014
• Can you Trust your Repairman - Wednesday, September 25, 2013
• Quo Vadis America? - Thursday, August 22, 2013
• Soothing wounds after identity theft - Monday, August 05, 2013
• A very insecure security key - Sunday, January 20, 2013
• 2012 in review - Wednesday, January 02, 2013
• In the Fall of Life - Monday, December 17, 2012
• In the Fall of Life - Monday, December 17, 2012
• Terzian is Winner of Dan Poybnter's 2012 E-book Award in multicultural nonfiction - Saturday, July 14, 2012
• Excerpt from "The Immigrants' Daughter" posted on Australian Website - Tuesday, May 01, 2012
• Chasing the silver linings in my clouds - Monday, March 05, 2012
• Review of 2011 - Wednesday, December 28, 2011
• Thrilling messages - Friday, October 28, 2011
• The Impact of Published Articles on the Writer's Mood. - Wednesday, March 16, 2011
• Ponderings, After Knee Repair - Wednesday, January 26, 2011
• Vacationing joy - Saturday, December 04, 2010
• Rainbows of Happiness - Thursday, September 09, 2010
• The communication tsunami - Monday, August 23, 2010
• Alternative hobbies - Sunday, June 20, 2010
• Book Club Meeting - Saturday, April 24, 2010
• Writers' Mood Swings - Saturday, March 27, 2010
• Ethnicity at Risk - Saturday, February 13, 2010
• Web addiction - Wednesday, October 21, 2009
• News - Saturday, July 11, 2009
• Author fulfillment - Monday, April 06, 2009
• Impressions from a trip to India - Tuesday, February 03, 2009
• Stretching the Comfort Zone - Tuesday, October 21, 2008
• Interview - Shobhan Bantwal - Thursday, October 09, 2008
• Traveling abroad - Tuesday, July 22, 2008
• Time to Write - Wednesday, May 28, 2008

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