Remember how I said that I can’t call myself ‘linguistic’ simply because I can’t attain levels of perfection when it comes to my grammatical knowledge, vocabulary or pronunciation? Well, today I’m going to dare, to dare to start thinking of myself as someone with ‘linguistic skills ‘ or ‘linguistic aptitude’.
This is the evidence that I am considering:
- Because I am nervous and sometimes social phobic, I have learnt the art of conversation: I ask questions. This means that the other person does all the talking whilst I stick to questioning. (There’s an art too to not making this type of conversation sound like an interview).
- I try to include everyone in the conversation, especially those who don’t speak the language confidently or those who I know are shy or hesitant to speak up. Being nervous makes me sensitive to how other people feel in these situations and I always try to put them at ease.
- I can follow a conversation or discussion in another language, which I speak precious few words of, for extended periods of time, remaining interested, attentive and even enthusiastic throughout. I can also agree, disagree, gesture and make sympathetic noises in appropriate places.
- When I learn one phrase in a new language, I can cheerfully make this sentence answer any and all questions that I am hereafter asked.
- A language being ‘foreign’ does not stop me from attempting to read it.
- I can coax expressions and key words out of tiny phrasebooks and mini dictionaries to extend my (non-existent) vocabulary to deal with a situation. (However, proper pronunciation is a different matter).
- I always try to find a lingua franca when I met someone who doesn’t speak my language (well) and I don’t speak theirs (at all), this might be pidgin or gestural, but I don’t give up.
- I can read phonetics, those weird almost symbol-like letters given for pronunciation in dictionaries.
- I see language and words simply as gateways rather than barriers.
- To my complete surprise (I was never thought to be good enough to do this), I can teach. I love sharing so being able to share what I know is a beautiful thing. Despite the fact that my knitting method has recently been discovered to be idiosyncratic, I’ve just taught someone to knit. And to purl.
- I can communicate.