Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Losing my Italian

So it’s been a year since I left Italy and despite occasionally watching my Italian DVDs or reading Oceano Mare, I’m clearly losing my command over the Italian language. The other day I sent an email to my ex in Italian and in the reply she pointed out all my mistakes, including using a slang term for the male member which I thought was a verb.



M.C. said...


It does seem that languages do have that "use it or lose it" aspect. I suspect that brain plasticity is far, far more important than generally realized, and that cognitive tasks which are not exercised lose their facilitating neural support.

In my own experience, the math skills which I was so proud to possess have sadly deteriorated over the past 15 years since graduating from college. On the positive side of the ledger, I've become far less aspergerian over the same time period. . .

Ersby said...

Well, I don't know what "aspergerian" means, so perhaps I'm losing my English too.

It's weird how the brain compartmentalises language. The other day I was playing with a friend's baby and she mentioned that the baby liked it when someone spoke to her in another language. So I started speaking in Italian, and got as far as "lunch" (which is "pranzo") and then I stopped.

The only word my brain would offer was "hiru-gohan", which is Japanese. I absolutely couldn't think of "pranzo". It's odd that my Japanese (which I know to a much less functional level than Italain) seems to be slowly pushing itself into the position of second language.

Douglas Hoftstader once wrote about his multi-lingualism, saying that his Italian was the basis of the other languages, on top of which was Spanish and on top of that was French (he worked this out by studying the mistakes he made). Perhaps because Italian and Japanese have nothing in common and can't be related in such a way, that my brain has split my languages into "English" and "not English".

M.C. said...

Aspergerian is my own construct based on asperger syndrome.

Basically I'm just commenting on becoming less of a nerdy antisocial geek. I was never quite in the actual asperger range, just exaggerating about that. . .