Beef Noodle Soup

With regards to my last post, which was an introduction to my thoughts on being multilingual, Mr. H. (who reads all my posts), said to me: I don’t get it, what was the conclusion to your post?

My answer: Well, there was none. There wasn’t supposed to be any. It was just an introduction about my background, so that it’s clear how I came to be multilingual.

Then I realised that I only want to write my personal thoughts on being multilingual. It’s not as if I’ve made a scientific study rounding up 3500 people, measuring different parameters, making statistics and charts, making any conclusion on intellectual capacities or anything like that. It’s not a case of me reading 20 scientific and sociologic articles and writing a review with my conclusions. I’m not sure I will be concluding with anything.

The press, the machine, the railway, the telegraph are premises whose thousand year conclusion no one has yet dared to draw.

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Therefore, taking into account that I was practically born speaking more than one language, here we go, here are some of my thoughts:

On pronunciation

When I learn a new language, I can pronounce it better. I read an article once (aha! so I am including the message of an article here) where the author had observed that his 2 year old son was able to make practically all of the sounds from many languages in the world. He could do the French R, the Spanish R, the English R. He could make sounds from Arabic or Dutch. And so on. But as you grow, your mouth adapts itself to one language and one accent, so the older you get, the less flexible you are in making new kinds of sounds.

I properly started speaking Spanish a little later on in life. But because I had always spoken more than one language, my Spanish accent is not truly an English accent – if you know what I mean. It’s not a real Spanish accent either, but the Englishness to it is very smooth. Most Spaniards will detect a small something that makes my accent not from Spain, but there is no way to pinpoint where it derived from either.

On finding the right words

Often when I’m talking to someone, the perfect word, saying or phrase will occur to me in a language that I’m not speaking in at that moment. It’s very frustrating because then I can’t think of anything just as good to say to put my point across.

Probably as a result of this, when I speak to friends that are also multilingual and speak the same language as me, I (or we) have a tendency to just mix words from different languages in the same conversation. Or worse, in the same sentence. Mr. H. hates it when I do this.

On broadening your way of thinking

Being native in different languages, it is inevitable that at work I’ve had to be the official translator for many documents. I instantly realised that to try and put the message through as faithful as possible, literal translations are usually impossible. Different languages sometimes express the same concept differently. This widens your way of thinking, sort of like in the same way as travelling and seeing new cultures.

Those are my thoughts for now. If I have anymore, or want to ever make a conclusion, I’ll do a Part III post for it. If you have any conclusions or thoughts, please share them in the comments.

Beef Noodle Soup Recipe

It seems I haven’t posted an oriental style recipe for ages. Here is a simple beef noodle soup I made recently.

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

400g beef, 2 scallions, 2cm piece ginger, noodles, salt, black pepper, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, dried chili flakes

Heat the sesame oil in a large pot. Cook the beef for a few minutes, not so that it’s totally cooked, we don’t want to lock the beef flavour inside it. Add 4 cups water. Chop the ginger and scallions into little pieces. Add the salt, black pepper, ginger and scallions, keeping some of the greener pieces of the scallions to decorate on top later on. Cook for about 30 minutes. Add more water if too much has evaporated. Add some noodles and cook for about 5 minutes.

Serve in a bowl. Sprinkle the green scallion pieces and some chili flakes.

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  1. lovinghomemade 2014-03-09 at 19:12

    You might just be good at pronounciation too – my brother speaks countless languages pretty much to mother tongue level (he is an Interpreter for the EU) and wherever he is they tend to think he is a local – Catalans, Mexicans, Spaniards, Germans, etc, etc, whereas I have never been able to say anything with a convincing accent! And you are also totally correct about certain words being the “right” one regardless of the language. I love the way concepts are expressed in various ways. I think a nation’s way of expressing things says a lot about them and it is difficult to try to understand a culture without understanding the language. Great post! And delicious beef noodle soup!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-09 at 19:22

      Wow, that’s cool, then your brother must also translate fast! You’re so right, I also think that a nations way of expressing themselves says a lot about their way of being and thinking. xx

  2. Camilla Kyndesen 2014-03-09 at 19:14

    I absolutely know what you mean about thinking of words in a different language than the one you’re speaking at that moment. Strangely, I usually “forget” the words in my native language, and remember them in my second language 🙂

    By the way – and this is probably a silly question – how do you eat a piece of beef that big with chopsticks? It looks delicious but challenging! 😉

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-09 at 19:16

      I tend to “forget” words too…
      haha I began with the chopsticks, then as you pointed out the beef was difficult to manage with them. So out came the knife and fork. And then I went on to fingers 🙂

  3. Guillermina Bósquez Stover 2014-03-09 at 19:27

    I understand your husband Mr. H hating it when you mix words from different languages. Here on the U.S-Mexico border, Mexicans call that “being pocha.” My mother hated it too, and would not allow it at home. So at home it was ALL Spanish ALL the time. I actually only spoke English at school, because my friends were all Mexicanos so we spoke Spanish. Until we were teenagers and the English would come creeping in, and then we were talking in Spanglish! It wasn’t until my college years that I talked mostly English. Being a polyglot (like you) is wonderful, because as you know, once you learn one other language, learning another is so much more easier. And thankfully, I LOVE words and languages, so the transition form Spanish to English was quite smooth. In fact, my Spanish helped my English! And of course, the basis in Spanish certainly helps my French AND my Italian…

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-09 at 19:34

      Being pocha, sounds funny 🙂 My parents also forbid my brother and I to speak English at home when we vied in Australia. Oh yes I also do Spanglish like you. Thats right, knowing Spanish (or similar) makes understanding French, Portuguese, Italian, etc really easy!

  4. pianolearner 2014-03-09 at 19:30

    That looks like it has a really clean taste. 🙂

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-09 at 19:32

      It does! The fact that I had hardly any ingredients around may have something to do with it 😉

  5. Sunny 2014-03-09 at 19:46

    Hey Sofia, so I get stuck in a certain “channel” too some days. On some days my Chinese is all over the place, and on others my English doesn’t function. Finding the right words isn’t as easy as it seems!

    A question about this recipe: which part of the beef is that? I’ve always wanted to make some sort of Chinese-ish beef dishes, but the beef is cut so differently here that I am convinced it’s never going to work!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-09 at 19:56

      Hey Sunny! Gosh the butcher told me the name of the cut in Spanish and I forgot. I think its the same piece that you would use to make Boef Blanquette in France and Belgium, which could have done with at least 10 more minutes of boiling but I didn’t have the time!

  6. Amanda 2014-03-09 at 21:08

    I dont think your posts need to have a point. It’s a form of self expression and your mix of languages sort of explains your cooking. This beef soup looks absolutely amazing and represents one faction of who you are. I can’t wait to see what else you’ve got coming.

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-09 at 21:13

      You’re right, we can write whatever we want on our blogs, there doesn’t need to be a point or a conclusion, just our self expression. xx

  7. eleieleika 2014-03-09 at 23:23

    The soup look nice in the picture, My suggestion for soups, try to put some spices, specially in winter. I use to make a lot of stock beef or chicken also fish. And freeze them in portions. Be brave of using species like black/white pepper, corriander, nutmeg (in moderate amount), cloves, even “anis estrella” are nice flavour for soups, be careful with soy sauce and other savoury sauces, choose the one with no msg (Mr.H also aware about this in our conversation in the past). Hahaha ..sorry, you must know more about this. 🙂

    By the way, about multilingual, I just realize now that I don’t remember taught you and your brother any language, I just spoke to you all in Indonesian, thanks to your father who also has the ability in learning language and very fluent in Indonesian. Unlike you who learn those language in school, I just learn by myself to survive in those places we have been living. The hardest place for me re; “idioma” was when we were in Noumea. When I had to take you and your brother to French School. When I found out that counting in French after is different, after counting up to 69, I had to do it matematically and there is no one word which means “cheap” you have to say “pas cheer” o “mois cher” or “bon marche”. and many more.
    Voila! those moments which I thought were very difficult, became beautiful memories now. I can say also that now I speak several languanges, None properly though!
    besos – your proud mother 🙂

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-10 at 09:18

      I use tons of spices Mum 🙂 I actually forgot to write that I used pepper here haha I’ll put it in now… Yep I still have to stop and “calculate” with French numbers too 🙂 Besitos!

  8. Christina | The Hungry Australian 2014-03-10 at 13:54

    You are so clever and so lucky to be multi-lingual. I speak a little Cantonese and Mandarin but I’m not fluent in either (anymore), which is a shame. In other news, this soup looks delicious!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-10 at 15:15

      Oh Christina, but Cantonese and Mandarine seem so difficult to me, so you must be so clever! I bet if you had to use it a bit you would be fluent again quickly. Have a lovely week!

  9. chef mimi 2014-03-10 at 14:45

    I love your mothers comment. Always the unsolicited advice! My French mother, when she sang, could only sing in German. Weird!

  10. Karen 2014-03-10 at 15:44

    It is wonderful that you speak many languages. Unfortunately, the Spanish that I learned in school didn’t really stick with me…I think you need to speak to people on a regular basis to be good with another language. Your soup would make a nice meal as we are still having snow and cold weather.

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-12 at 00:01

      Yeah, thats how I lost my French before, I wasn’t using it. Anyway, reading Spanish once in a while would help I think. And we can write in Spanish here, si quieres 😉 Is the weather better now?

      1. Karen 2014-03-12 at 01:44

        Poco a poco. Snow again tomorrow but winter can’t last forever. 🙂

  11. What Jessica Baked Next... 2014-03-10 at 17:50

    I think it’s amazing that you speak so many languages, Sofia! I studied and speak a moderate amount of conversational French and German- but I would love to become fluent one day. The soup looks absolutely delicious, as ever! 🙂

  12. Dalo 2013 2014-03-11 at 19:53

    So true, my problems with finding the right word is quite fun…it is similar with creating a new language within the language that I am learning. Fun stuff. The soup looks great… 🙂

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-12 at 00:48

      Do you also make up words? I do. Thanks, the Chinese restaurants I go to here make some great noodle soups. I try, but mine probably tastes “healthier”…

  13. dedy oktavianus pardede 2014-03-12 at 23:29

    I love learning new language instead of asian because it’s quite diffiicult,
    my olddest sister flluent in germany, japanese, spanish and french, but fortunately i can speak english…

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-12 at 23:34

      Your sister is pintar sekalih! What does she do, does she need the languages for her work? You speak fantastic English (and can obviously write it better than I can write Indonesian, as you know).

  14. Helen @ Scrummy Lane 2014-03-13 at 06:49

    I totally know what you mean, Sofia, about a word coming into your head first in another language! That happens to me sometimes, too, and sometimes I even dream in another language! The soup looks fabulous … love how easy it is!

    1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces 2014-03-15 at 01:20

      Now that you say that, I think I don’t realise what language I dream in, hmmm….


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