Form of…Google Translator! Shape of … accent aigu … or grave … or the little triangular hat one!
If I could have one superpower, it would be the ability to speak every language known to humankind. Actually, it would be the ability to communicate with every living thing, but besides the fact that in saying that I might come across as a granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging hippie from Northern California (and part of me is, sans Birkenstocks), I also realize that such a wish might, in the end, be more annoying than awesome considering that the tree I just hugged might yell at me for stepping on its roots. So for now, I’ll keep my superpower to just the languages.
Now mind you, I understand that having such a superpower might make life a little less exciting being that it would definitely limit the amount of humility-inducing mistakes that come with learning a new language in its home country. For instance, I can’t describe the amount of entertainment it brought to everyone at the hair salon when I told them that I was going to wear a small bicycle on my head for my wedding (and by bicycle, I meant veil), or the amount of confusion that was brought on by my telling my parents-in-law that I was going to the Middle Ages, when, in fact, I just wanted to go to the second floor. These are indeed those small, yet key moments in life that humble one’s ego and create a new sense of self-awareness often necessary in “keeping it real.” But for me, you can take those moments and les fourrer dans votre traducteur de Google.
I suppose this whole wish goes with the fact that I love to talk and get to know people, and that’s just not possible when I have absolutely no idea what they are saying. I have become a master of the game ‘Guess What They Are Saying’, but more often than not, I’m playing that game all by myself.
And although I have perfected the “I understand you” nod along with the appropriately timed “oui,” I long for the moment when I can have a real, substantial conversation that doesn’t include the price of something, the location of the toilets, or a half-assed explanation of why my name may sound like the name of their language, but that in fact, it is an actual name spelled a bit differently. (My parents did not name me after you mother tongue, I promise.)
“Je m’appelle Frances, pas française!”
More than anything, what I would love is to have the ability to express myself fully, to say what I’m thinking, and for people to get to know the “real” me, all existentialism aside, that is. There are so many things I’d love to share, but am unable to due the fact that my vocabulary is close to that of the pre-kinder level (at family gatherings, I end up talking mostly to my 3 year old nephew. He gets me.) Not to mention that up to this point, I’ve pretty much only conquered the present tense. This is mostly useful when describing current occurrences or becoming a Buddhist.
And forget about trying to have a sense of humor in a new language. Funny doesn’t always translate well, giving or receiving. Although I did attempt a joke the other night at a dinner party, but ended up calling the host a gay pedophile. Much explanation ensued. (I swear, French people, I’m actually funny in English!)
Now, with the above said, there are some upsides to being language-impaired. For example, it is quite handy to be able to get out of any uncomfortable situations or telemarketing phone calls with a simple, “I’m sorry. I don’t speak French.” (My hubby loves to pull this one despite the fact that his accent is reminiscent of that of Pepé Le Pew’s. He ain’t pulling the brie over anyone’s eyes with that move.)
“Sorry, I don’t speak French…yet.”
It’s also really nice to be able to escape to my “language bubble,” where all the background clatter of surrounding conversations becomes calm, white noise, and I can be left alone with my non-Francobased thoughts to enter into an almost meditative state of observation and thought. (I actually do find this really enjoyable.)
But, when all is said and done, I’m eager to give it the old college try and add one more language to my slowly-growing roster. There are over 6,000 different languages (depending on the whole language vs. dialect debate…but that’s a completely different blog) on this planet. I’m at 2 ½ and counting.
And hey, if I’m already dreaming in French, I’m only 575-600 class hours away from actually speaking it in real life. That’s just around the corner.
However, until then, I’ll take that superpower, please.