Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tongue Tied

So, ummm ... I did the federal Oral Interaction test for French language competency last week. I'd received an email, rather out-of-the-blue, from a FedGov position I'd applied for sometime back in the early summer, requesting my presence at such-&-such a place at such-&-such a time. I knew I wasn’t ready for this, but I was told, basically, that there was no way to reschedule the test, except.... Well, here:

Note: Scheduling of alternative dates will only be considered for religious purposes, death in the family, pre-existing travel plans or cases of serious illness (a medical certificate or other proof will be required).

I arrived well on time. (It felt like walking to the gallows). I did the test. I choked.

The best part was when the interviewer stopped me to ask, "What language are you speaking?" I'd slipped into Russian! Not only that, but I didn't even know I could speak the Russian that I was speaking. It was a complete case of nerves taking over. I'd slipped into this pre-conscious state, into the comfort language of my infant years. I switched back into French and we had a jolly laugh.

Then, I started losing my French vocabulary. I'd try to think of an equivalent word in English, only to realise I couldn't remember how to speak English. Thanks, mother tongue. I could only think in Russian, but that was proving too freaky.

At this point I could read the writing on the wall. It was very clear. It didn't have to be in any particular language. I could understand it quite clearly. Hmmmm.

The results of the test were supposed to be available within 48-72 hours. They haven't arrived yet. However, I don’t think they need to get back to me. You know, it’s just a feeling.

More language classes, more conversation practice, more calm. And where the hell did that Russian language come from?


G said...

I hear you. I slip into German whenever I get on a good swearing roll, which basically means I speak German for about half my day, and pretty much the entire time in the car.

Weird how that happens.

Hedgehog Librarian said...

Lol...I spent most of a semester of Italian responding to the professor in perfect German--fortunately he was amazingly patient about that. At least I knew where that came from though. What struck me as really odd was when I started babbling in German recently and realized the person I was rambling to actually understood what I was saying! Ooops

Leglib said...

Hi Hedgehog Librarian,

It's good to see you here. Thanks for dropping by.

I know what you mean about someone overhearing & understanding your words when it's not expected.

I had a similar experience a few years ago when I said something along the lines of "Она очень красивая женщина". The attractive woman to whom I was referring (most politely, of course) turned to me & said, "Thanks, you're not so bad either." Then, she told me where to go.

I didn't want to go there.

Hedgehog Librarian said...

Uh-oh...my Russian's not that good but I gather I should probably not ask you to translate. Yes--please feel free to link!


Anonymous said...

Dear leglib,
Swearing always sounds better in a foreing language, doesn't it? For my part, I slip into my childhood linguistic environment of 1970s PQ whenever I want to add a certain elan to my rants. Never thought I'd liken myself to Rene Levesque, but, truth to tell, that's how I sound. Without the smoking butt dangling from my mouth, of course. The patrons at the refdesk wouldn't appreciate it.
BTW, yet another one takes a stab at the blogging. http://metropolisofmind.wordpress.com/.
Salut for now, JH