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doubletalk: two sides to the same sword.

March 3, 2010

i should have seen this coming.
but i didn’t necessarily.

it’s soooo obvious now
in retrospect-
i might have prepared myself mentally/emotionally
if i had wrapped my head around
this simple fact

in the event that one moves to a foreign country
where a foreign language is spoken
and that one speaks aforementioned language
(due to previous lifetimes in other countries of same language)
and has a reputation of proficiency-
that one will be obligated to form
a communication bridge
for the others around that one.

downright selfish
socially unacceptable, not to.

since the day justin and i pulled the car
over the border at laredo and
into the lot at immigration-

i have been compelled
to speak,
to write,
to think,
many times more than i would
if i were only carrying on my own conversations.

do you know why it is multiple times more?
like, i am not even willing to wager a number
but far more than say, 2, 3 or 4?
there are several reasons.
some of them obvious, like
i say everything twice so that both parties understand each other
and i get sucked into conversations not involving me
serving only to convey their thoughts to each other
this whole experience has made me realize something-

since i married justin,
i completely took for granted
that he has flawlessly handled without complaint
all parts of communication that i do not enjoy-
and there are many.  they could be boiled down to
+all business negotiations
+all small talk with fringe acqaintances
+all interaction with strangers
(with the exception of customers,
wherein i am the paid employee and thereby skilled in
high-voiced, falsified friendliness)

he has made every unpleasant phone call,
paid every bill, spoken with every salesperson and stranger.
and all the while i have blissfully flitted along
as the silent partner who
might occasionally
make an aside comment if the mood so strikes.

what i’m saying is
it hit us both pretty quick
that first morning at six am
in the bordertown
in front of the official asking for our paperwork.

it goes sort of like this- (some sample scenarios)

at customs:
official speaks.
i answer.
i tell justin what man says and what i say back.

justin adds a comment
i tell man justin’s addition.
and so forth.

on the road at checkpoints:
justin rolls down window.
man speaks to justin.
justin looks at me.
i answer.
man speaks again, to me now.
i answer again.
we drive away.
justin asks for summary.
i replay whole interchange.

coffee shop paperwork:
i am asked to come up with
contracts, standards, task lists, ingredient lists,
and so on, and so on and so on for shop.
i type them in english.
all the while running over in my mind
possible dynamically equivalent spanish phrasing.
i type them in spanish.

coffee shop staff meeting:
i go over aforementioned documents in english.
i go over them in spanish.
i field questions in english.
i field questions in spanish.
i translate for others who wish to say things
in their first language to the entire group.

at random:
i am required on outings that
i have nothing to do with
and would otherwise be exempt from
except that i am to play the role of
communicator, mediating topics like
medical conditions and construction projects.

now: i would have to be
fully crazy
to wish i didn’t know spanish, right?
but maybe only
fractionally so
to wish that no one knew i do?
no.  then i’d just be selfish.

the partial end in sight-
just as passionately as i hate being the primary communicator,
justin hates not being able to communicate independently.

so he registered in spanish classes just about the day after we arrived
and we both exult for the day when things are back to
how they work best between us.

there is no full end in sight though,
because double language paperwork, shoptalk
and bridging between separate worlds is
just a given where two languages collide.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Rebekah permalink
    March 5, 2010 09:48

    good insights. i would have a hard time with this too. just caught up on your posts, good stuff.

  2. jill permalink
    March 8, 2010 17:28

    Wow, never gave that any thought. Must be very tough for the 2 of you. You’ll figure it out, you guys always do. Can you imagine being in a country where neither one knows the language?

    • March 8, 2010 19:44

      i have thought about that.
      living in a country like say, china,
      where neither of us had any background language knowledge…
      would be challenging in many other ways.
      but i think in that case…
      he would still take the communication helm.
      or would he?

  3. marmy permalink
    March 12, 2010 14:03

    interesting. since dad and i learned it together. we didn’t experience this. and we both had our areas of expertise where we rely on the other, ie. parts of the car? tools in general? kitchen utensils? foods and fruits? medical terminology was my gig, until, now.

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