For as long as long as I remember I have been multilingual. Oh no, now we’re in for it, I’ve just realised that in order to write about my thoughts on languages, I would probably need to write a short summary about my life. Not too many details, only a quick look through where I’ve lived.
I was born in Indonesia, in Balikpapan which is on the island of Borneo, on a 23rd June. Therefore I most probably began speaking in Indonesian, and a bit of Spanish.
When I was 2, we moved to Singapore, where English, Malay and Mandarin are spoken. Malay is extremely similar to Indonesian. Because we never ended up living happily ever after in Singapore, even though I speak Indonesian, I have never been able to fine tune my ear enough to distinguish between the Malay and the Indonesian version. I actually remember when I was in preschool there, the teachers where putting huge Chinese characters in front of me and demanding I say what they meant. Unfortunately I can’t remember any of the characters now, nor can I speak chinese.
We moved to Australia when I was 5. My English then turned into Australian.
Now we’ll move on to when I was a teenager. Lets not go into what age and what not because we moved around quite a bit so life was a big mumble jumble. Until now I spoke English, Indonesian and hadn’t really developed any proper Spanish, only a few concepts.
So we then moved to New Caledonia, which is a tiny French island in the Pacific, in between Australia and Fiji. Thus I learnt French. When we left New Caledonia I lost my French.
Then we went to live in Papua New Guinea for a few months. Ok, even though I never properly learnt it, but they spoke a version of English there called Pidgin English, which was quite funny. It’s like a simplified version of English – or a complicated version of it, depending on how you see it. For example, if you want to say I’m thirsty, you would have to say throat belong me dry.
After that we went to live in Brunei, a small country on island of Borneo (again!). They spoke English and Malay there.
Suddenly I found myself living in Spain. Until then I had only known bits and pieces of Spanish, nothing remarkably similar to what I would call speaking Spanish. But now I was there so I had to learn. Of course I did. I became completely fluent and “native” in Spanish, with the exception of sometimes distinguishing over if an object is masculine or feminine.
Later I went to live in England. I remember when I left my parents said: stay true to your (Australian) roots. Alas, somewhere along the way my Australian accent turned into a British one. But not totally so. English people usually say I have an Australian twang. My Australian friends say I sound British. I wonder what Americans would think?
After a few years in England, I moved to Barcelona. Even though Barcelona is in Spain, it is in a region called Catalonia, they like to speak the Catalan language (and not Spanish), and they want independence from Spain. Messy situation, politics, I won’t go into it… Anyway, I hear the Catalans speaking in Catalan wherever I go here, so by now I understand Catalan and could speak it if I felt like it. I also used to have a very international job in which, amongst other places I would have to deal with Brasilians nearly everyday. My written Brasilian Portuguese got to be pretty good.
In between all this I met Mr. H. He is French, so I had to relearn French, even if only to speak with his family, as he does speak Spanish and English too.
Big summary: I fluently, natively, or whatever you want to call it, speak English, Indonesian and Spanish. I am nearly there at fluently speaking French. And can dabble in a few more languages too but don’t consider that I actually speak them.
This has already been a long introduction, and I get tired of thinking about myself, so I was going to write my thoughts on being multilingual but I’m cutting it into two posts. At least now you’ll understand why I may have a bit of a mess in my head where languages are concerned. Stay tuned to part II in the next post!
What languages do you speak?
Besides, I have inserted these photos of my squid ink pasta with cockles. This dish truly tastes and looks like something from a fancy restaurant. Or at least that’s what it looked like in real life, I don’t know about my photos. The fact is that because I cheated with ready made pasta and a can of cockles in brine, it’s so simple and quick to make.
Squid Ink Pasta with Cockles Recipe
Squid ink pasta, 90g cockles in brine, 2 cloves garlic, 1 Kumato tomato, 1 twig parsley, 1/2 cup white wine, salt, white pepper, 1 teaspoon olive oil
Boil the pasta in a big pot and drain when it’s al dente.
Meanwhile, rinse and drain the cockle. Peel and cut the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and fry the garlic on low heat. When it looks about halfway done, add the tomato and parsley, cut into pieces. Add the white wine. Cook until the tomato has rather disintegrated. Add the cockles, salt, and white pepper. If it looks like it will dry out, just add some water.
Finally mix in the pasta.
Serve with some white wine.
- In Spain there is a seafood-in-cans tradition. They are very well made, so I have no worries in adding them to a dish like this.
- Even though the photos only show one clove of garlic, I did pop in another one.