Tomorrow night, I get to take a brief break from Young Man From Atlanta tech madness and go perform in both English and Spanish at eSe Teatro's fundraiser, eSe Amour: Great Works of Love. This is the 2nd time I've had the privilege of performing with eSe, and they've invited me to read in two or three readings as well.
Some folks might not know about me that I'm a first generation American on my mom's side: she and my father met while he was doing a stint teaching basketball for the Peace Corps in her country, Uruguay. Half of my family lives here in the States and speak English; the other half live in Uruguay and Argentina and speak Spanish. Though we always spoke English at home, I am bilingual, as a consequence of living in Spain when I was three, and attending a Spanish pre-school there. Apparently, I came home one day speaking Spanish, and that was all she wrote. It has been in my head ever since. The only chance I've mostly gotten to speak it, however, has been during visits to my relatives in Uruguay, and occasional vacations in Mexico and Spain.
Once we got back to this country and I was a teenager, however, it was not cool to speak Spanish. My parents tried to persuade me to take Spanish language classes so I could learn to read and write in Spanish - they said it would be an easy A. I rebelled and took French. They would parade me in front of their friends and ask me questions in Spanish. I would answer in English. And so on.
By the time I was an adult, I figured any fluency I had was pretty much gone, since I never really spoke Spanish all that much, and even when I went to Uruguay for a visit, my parents and siblings were with me and I talked to them in English.
One Christmas while I was in college, after visiting my immediate family in South Africa, where they were posted, I flew back via Uruguay for a week. This time, I had no one to speak English to and I had to dig back into those language centers of my brain and dig out that fluency...and it was the strangest thing when, after a week of speaking only in Spanish, I was starting to think in Spanish. My mother phone me from South Africa the day before I was to fly back to the States to check up - she spoke to me in English...and it took me a moment to switch back. What an odd experience! It really hit home that once you have a fluency in a language, it never really goes away - you just have to take it out and dust it off for a few days and it's forever in those language centers of your brain. I've since visited Uruguay twice more without immediate family, and had this same experience of my Spanish returning after a day or so of constant use.
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Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.