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It’s Not Just Old Age

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on May 19, 2015 in Personal |

I am reminded, in a timely post from an online friend here in Germany, of how easy it is to forget, to lose, to grow out of the habit of using a language. In my recent post on various problems in the local area, I constantly referred to a certain road structure as being a ring-road. I am reminded that a ring-road is one which takes drivers and their vehicles around a town or object so that it is avoided. What I should have been writing, and the word which not only makes sense but also conjures up a much better picture of what people have and what they want, is roundabout.

I wonder whether other people have experienced this too: you start using a different language every single day, almost without a break, and the old language, the one you have used for the bulk of your life, seems to fade into the background and, worse still, starts to vanish. I have caught myself trying to find a simple, common word many, many times. Constantly thinking of the German word, the word that I do not want to use because it is the wrong language, and unable to translate it into English.

Photo Source: din bcnCreative Commons

I hope that I am not the only one who experiences this! The strange thing is, as those who know me already appreciate, I concentrate all of my communication through the written word. It’s not as if I am trying to juggle different means of communication. I write as much in English as I do in German, and the two are separated by what I write. My use of German is more on the academic side – although we also write papers in English – and everything else is in English. So why am I starting to forget words?

Could it be that, since I communicate by other means, and since I tend to think more and more in German, that I am gradually changing from an English-language first person to a German-language first person? Not that this would necessarily be a bad thing, but I do wonder whether it is common or not, this forgetfulness, this searching for a basic word everyone else knows… Any ideas?

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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1 Comment

  • Francois says:

    It has been my experience as well. Thinking in French, my native language, now requires an effort.
    I remember reading that you never count mentally in any other language than your first. Not true for me.

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