Schizolingual is a new word I coined to describe my state of speech when I’m trying to speak a foreign language – anything other than Hindi, English or Tamil, it seems. With those three there’s simply a tendency to switch and mix at will, but with the others… boy has it been funny.

It seems as if whenever I’m trying to speak in a foreign language, German here in Austria and Arabic back in Egypt, my brain accesses the most recent unfamiliar word for a word I’m trying to say. For instance, when I first started taking Arabic lessons I found myself frequently using the word “aber” (Deutsch for “but”) while chatting with my teacher. One of the correct words is “lekin” which is also used in Hindi, so it should have actually been easier to remember, but my head is ever the contrarian. And similarly, here in Austria, despite the perfect simplicity of the word Ja (Yes) I find myself saying Aiwa or Si (Arabic and Italian respectively). Definitely Schizolingual! or schizo-something at any rate.

But my truly scariest experience of schizolingualism came about at about 2 am one night when on a cab home from my summer schoolmates’ dorm. I was giving the cabbie instructions in German but said some crucial words in Arabic. (unfortunately can’t quite remember the sentence that slipped out, but it went something like this… Bitte jetst gehen sie shemel). Guess what? The guy didn’t need any translation or explanations.He was an Egyptian who’d lived here in Vienna for many years, and so I guess had had linguistic experiences similar to mine. Go figure! All he did was laugh, ask me where I was from and then proceeded to prove his Egyptian-ness (and especially Egyptian cabbie-ness) by asking about Bollywood and Amitabh Bacchan! So not only was he schizolingual he also proved to be cosmocultural!

Ciao, See y’all spater. I’m sure you have work to do and ana kamen muss arbeiten.

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