Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Speaking in Tongues

A few minutes ago I got a telephone call from someone who asked for me. When I told her it was me, she started speaking to me in spanish. I began to suspect that she might be calling from El Salvador, my son's mission. I asked her where she was calling from, and she said San Miguel, which is a place where my son has lived. She started talking to me like I was a native speaker!

I took 4 years of high school spanish, but I don't really speak very well. I can understand more than I can speak, but her accent was so thick that I couldn't understand what she was saying! I kept telling her, over and over, that my spanish isn't very good, and that I don't understand very much. Then she would start rambling something again, and again I would tell her I didn't understand. Wow it was frustrating!

She mentioned my son's name several times; I understood that much. I tried to come up with something to say to her, but as I was searching my brain for the words, the phone cut out. My biggest problem was that amidst the spanish words floating in my brain were a whole flood of chinese ones. I could easily think of the words in chinese, but couldn't pull out the spanish ones. I wish I had been coherent enough to run to the computer and pull up "babelfish". Instead, I just sat there and babbled in broken spanish.

So now I'm wondering if there was something in particular that she wanted to tell me, or if she was just being friendly since she knows my son. I also know some people here in my city, who go to our church, who are from El Salvador. I wonder if she got in contact with me through them. There was one girl whose family let my son "skype" at their house on Christmas day. She appears in one of the screen captures I took. I'm wondering if it could be her. Dang, where is that "gift of tongues" when you need it? ;)


Maria from 'gaelikaa's diary' said...

I studied French in school, but lack of practise has banished it from my mind. It's been replaced by my husband's language Hindi, of which I probably understand fifty per cent.

I hope your son is okay!

Looney said...

My language studies started with three years of German before switching to Chinese, and later Japanese. When I went back to attempting German and couldn't think of the word, a Chinese or Japanese one would seem to fit perfectly. Scary.

When I worked in France the French engineer I worked with had studied English followed by German. When he couldn't remember the English word, the German word went in, which fit nicely with my schooling so I understood him very well.

I suspect that jumbled languages is a common problem!

Rummuser said...

In India, it is very common to find multilingual persons because of the many languages spoken here. Most can speak their own mother tongues and English and usually a smattering of Hindi. It is increasingly becoming obvious that one has to learn new languages to be able to exploit opportunities that come up any where in the country. I speak five languages fluently and a couple more haltingly. Most sales persons do.

Grannymar said...

Some years ago I had two French ladies staying with me for a week. My French was minimal, like you, I understood more than I could speak. One lady had very little English while the other(J) spoke English and Italian as well as French. I remember one evening at dinner. As I struggled with French, only Irish or German came to me and J was speaking more Italian than French or English. It was a Hoot, but somehow we managed.

Nene said...

You should have just started speaking to her in Chinese. :0)