Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The China Diaries: The Language Barrier

I've been without internet at home for the last week or so. As a result, I've not spoken with my mom in about two weeks, which may well be the longest we've ever gone without speaking to one another. She called me this evening to see how I was doing and to check on flight information for my brief return to the U.S. in January. It was, of course, nice to hear her voice.

A funny thing happened, though; while I was talking to her, a Chinese member of the staff came over to ask me a question. I wrote 我妈妈 ("My mother") in Chinese on a notepad while still listening, and responding to, my mother in English. This was, apparently, close to too much; my mind felt as though two people had grabbed each of the hemispheres and pulled in opposite directions. It was a weird, weird feeling. Translating is one thing; I've done that. But literally, simultaneously communicating in two languages, one through speaking and one through writing, is a strange thing.

I look forward to trying it again in the future. Strange, yes, but oddly intriguing.

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