Wednesday, June 22, 2005

My personal Babel

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We have a Polish trainee at the office this week called Katarzyna. She was sitting this morning in the same room with me and heard me making my phone calls.

I had to call to Germany today and the woman in the other end did not speak English, which meant that ich musste Deutsch sprechen. I stumbled a bit but managed. Katarzyna said that she found it amazing that people at the ECF speak so many languages.

Yesterday I made a phone call to Norway and spoke both English and Swedish and the man in the other end spoke Norwegian. In a seminar in Germany a few weeks back I spoke English, Swedish, Finnish, German and a bit of Dutch.

I do not mean to boast with this. I just wanted to state this because it is a completely new setting for me. I also notice that languages improve only by using them. Last year it always took me a while to adjust myself to the right language when someone called because I wasn´t prepared. My assumption has now changed: the person in the other end of the line can speak any language.

I have been slightly afraid of losing the core competence I have, i.e. verbal acrobatics in Finnish. That is what I have been paid for during the last years. What if I lose the Finnish grammar or structure of a proper sentence? What if I start speaking in "anglisms"? Of course it is my mother tongue and therefore it is superior to other languages. And I do read a lot in Finnish. But this internal Babel influences me already in a way that I mix German and Dutch. I say ´maar´ when I mean ´aber´. I say accidentally ´werken´ when I was trying to say ´arbeiten´. And I say ´vijf´ when my attempt was saying ´fünf´. Could go on and on...Wat ist der tulevaisuus med deze?

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