Languages I wish I spoke better

It’s pretty much all languages besides English.  By order of my level of fluency:

  1. Tagalog (a.k.a. Filipino).  This one I have native fluency in, but my vocabulary is for crap.  Even in the Philippines, I mostly spoke in the dialect known as Taglish (Tagalog-English), and I’ve been losing little-used words.  Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly comfortable in it, but it can be hard for me to avoid codeswitching in my speech (codeswitching is the technical term in linguistics for switching between languages inter- or intrasententially).
  2. Spanish.  This one I almost achieved fluency in after five weeks in Peru for an ethnographic field school.  I was so close I could feel it, and had I stayed just a bit longer in South America I think I could have gotten it.  Funny story,  I actually only took a year of Spanish back in undergrad (I think I got a B) and that was three years before the field school.  I’d half-assedly been reviewing my Spanish in preparation, but I was hoping to be able to get the help of other people in my group who were better speakers.  When I arrived at the airport, though, I couldn’t find the person I was supposed to meet and couldn’t remember the name or number of the hotel I was supposed to be staying in.  There was a taxi driver talking to me in Spanish trying to get me to take his cab, and out of desperation I managed to start producing sentences in Spanish.  I got the guy to take me to a decent hotel, then I managed to get a room and make a long-distance call back home to sort out the whole mess.  I hooked up with the rest of the field school the next day.  After that I was fine talking in Spanish for the rest of my time in Peru.
  3. French.  Canada is officially bilingual in French and English, and what that means for English-speaking children is that they must study French.  I resisted learning French, partly because I thought it was unfair to expect me to study it at the same level as my classmates when I’d never encountered it before (the educational system made no concessions to immigrant children in this regard), and partly because I’d begun taking up the attitudes of my Anglophone classmates regarding French (mainly, that it was stupid).  By the time I got to high school I started making an effort and actually got an A in French, despite me not knowing how to count past ten (by that level, you’re assumed to have already learned the basics, so you don’t get tested on them).  However, that was only for one year, the last year of mandatory French study, and after that I dropped French like a hot potato.  In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t, since there are all kinds of direct advantages to be enjoyed from French fluency, such as the greater number of scholarships one becomes eligible for and the greater number of job opportunities.  And I wouldn’t mind living in Montreal sometime, despite it being the dirties Canadian city I’ve ever seen (which is still rather clean compared to the Philippines).  I can still kind of get the gist of written French, though, and sometimes in Chinese restaurants I read the French side of the fortunes in my fortune cookies first just to see how much I still understand.
  4. Bahasa Indonesian.  I had this idea for doing ethnographic fieldwork in Malaysia and Indonesia for my Masters and I bought myself a Teach Yourself Indonesian book in preparation (the proposed project turned out to be too big for a one year Masters program like mine).  I only got a quarter of the way in and I haven’t cracked the book in over a year, so all I can remember is yes, no, and counting to ten.  Still, I’m hoping to do fieldwork in Southeast Asia for my proposed PhD project, so the book could still be useful in the future.  I’ll have to start doing the exercises again sometime.
  5. German.  This one I’ve never studied at all, but I could have.  After reading Heidegger in my high school philosophy class, I suddenly got the hankering to study German and signed up for it.  However, I was the only one interested in a school of (I think) 5 000 students.  My school offered to have me bussed to another school for my German lessons, but I decided I didn’t like Heidegger enough to put up with this inconvenience.  Again, in retrospect I wish I’d stuck with it, since it’s never a bad thing to have more languages under one’s belt.

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