“Please blog about your experiences learning a foreign language”, you said. And I thought: this can’t be that hard. I love languages; I’ve learned a few, this should be easy. But it wasn’t. The blank screen stared at me, waiting, but my fingers refused to write.
The problem wasn’t my lack of experience. The problem was finding a story that was worth telling and not too difficult to write. My mind was flying around throw school lessons and trips. But what should I write?
Could I write the story of a friend of mine who copied my French test’s answers and wrote my name? He didn’t know the difference between prénom (first name) and nom (last name), so he peeped what I wrote and copied it.
Could I write that when I spent a week on Italy, I thought “lui” was the name of one of the waiters until I found that it means “he”? Could I tell the only sentence I remember from the Italian language is “voglio una birra” (“I want a beer”)? Could I write the first story my English teacher told me?
Once upon a time there was a mouse living in a small hole in the kitchen’s wall. One day he woke up very hungry, but there was no food left. He thought he could get out of his hole and steal some cheese from the kitchen, but he was afraid, because the family had bought a cat a few days before.
The kitchen was silent, but the mouse was afraid. He knew that cats are good hunters and can wait patiently and silently for an opportunity. But then he heard a dog barking and smiled. That meant the cat wasn’t around.
The mouse got out of the hole, found a big piece of cheese and started eating. But, when he least expected, the cat caught him with his big and strong finger nail. The mouse tried to run away, but he couldn’t.
“Aren’t you afraid of the dog? I heard him barking”.
The cat laughed at him and answered “I’m the one who barked. You know, in these days, everybody must speak at least two languages”. And then he ate the mouse.”
Was this story interesting enough? Maybe I could rewrite one I learned in a lesson of a Mirandese, a language spoken in a small area of northeastern Portugal, in the municipalities of Miranda do Douro, Mogadouro and Vimioso.
Once upon a time, in a small town, there were two guys eating having breakfast at a restaurant, when a tourist entered. He wanted to find the way to the nearest city, but he didn’t speak English.
"Sprechen sie Deutsch?
The tourist gave up. He left and I think he never really found the way to the city. The other guys talked a lot about him and one of them said: “You know what? We should learn some foreign languages.”
“What a hell are you talking about”, answered the other one, “why should we learn languages? That tourist knew a lot of them and that didn’t help him”.
Was this story good enough? I really didn’t know what I should write about. Then, it hit me! I’m writing in English and English isn’t my mother language. So, maybe I should write about how hard it is writing in a language I’m still learning.
So, I wrote this text. Maybe it has spelling errors, maybe the vocabulary should be more diversified, I admit: I still have a lot to learn. But, as the Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz once said: “Devemos falar bem a nossa lingua e mal a lingua dos outros” (we should speak our language well and the other languages badly).