December 18, 2006

Floating, Drowning, When Learning a New Language

Those who learn a new language invariably enter shady and absurd areas when trying to express themselves as they would in their own language. And I’m still confronted with that truth on a near-daily basis.

When I began to live in English-speaking communities, I would at times say something which resulted in looks of surprise or just blank looks with a response like: “That just doesn’t work, you can’t say that in English”, even at times when I was really convinced I used the right forms of speech and realised I had always up to that point been saying that particular thing incorrectly. For I don’t know how long, for example, I was sure that hideous and gorgeous meant their metrical opposites, so in my world hideous would mean gorgeous and vice versa. This conviction was so strong that when I realised things were actually the opposite, my whole sense of significance revolted against this change. For me, “gorgeous” could not mean a pretty thing anymore.

Now that I’m much older and wiser and never actually have such problems anymore with my English, I’m beginning to notice old worn-in mistakes in my Spanish. The example that I noticed today was my use of cuando (meaning “when”) and cuanto (“how much”). And believe me, even though it’s natural, you feel pretty stupid sitting on a rush hour train, saying something like “so how much is S. going to invite her to the Christmas dinner?”, only to realise your mistake 5 minutes later.


- 2 comments by 1 or more people

  1. Hero

    Dinnae worry yersel, there are many people in the UK who use incorrect grammar daily and get really stressed by people using correct grammar!

    You will also find that people hear the word that fits all the time..for example I sometimes say ‘Como se escribe’ instead of ‘Com’e scrive’ (confusing Spanish and Italian) (i think I’ve got that right!) and have even had arguments over whether I said the right thing when I know I have said the wrong one…

    English people find it charming anyway..

    18 Dec 2006, 09:51

  2. I just bumped into another set of opposites I just can´t seem to get right: antes (before) and después (after) which, as you can imagine, causes really funny situations sometimes.

    19 Dec 2006, 12:29


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