Life Of a Polyglot/Too Many Languages in My Head


My languages are native=Japanese. Spanish was the second one I gained fluency in. I studied French a bit between then, and it took 15 years to get to this level in English. I have also studied Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, and picked up by osmosis random stuff in Russian and in Serbo-Croatian. None of those I speak.

I don't use Spanish as much as I did in construction and renovation, so these days, it's Broken Spanish. I blank on a word, and just say it in Japanese to fill the gap in the sentence. That's how breaking a language works.

So, rare as it is in SoCal, it's pouring. It's evening, I'm coming home, my neighbour is taking his wife and daughter somewhere. I stop and ask them: do you have an umbrella?

However I forget the word for umbrella and substitute the Japanese word, not really thinking, because Japanese is my default; of course it makes sense to me.In Japanese, it's"kasa."

As far as they heard: ?No tienen casa?

For non-Spanish speakers, because the word in Japanese for umbrella sounds just like the Spanish word for home, I ended up asking my NEIGHBOURS if they were HOMELESS.


Trying to switch languages in mid sentence can be confusing, especially if one of them is English.
I'm glad the confusion was explained away and the neighbors are no longer homeless - or wet.

Two - to - too
The wind is blowing, while I wind the clock.
I'll take the lead, if you'll get the lead out.


Another antidote.

When I was in social work, I was near San Fransisco. Which I can never spell even though I speak Spanish.

Anyway, English, Spanish, then Cantonese, were the top three most spoken languages there. I decided to try to learn Cantonese.

Like most Asian-Americans in Oakland, I spent a lot of my free time in the rwfereshingly non-touristy Chinatown (gone now).

I regularly bank there, and the tellers were willing to let me practise with them.

One day, I need to do a withdrawl. Early in my studies, because my native Japanese took a lot of cues from Cantonese, I tended to treat Cantonese as if it were Japanese when in doubt.

In Japanese, one hundred is just hundred and a thousand/one thousand often just thousand.

So I essentially ask "I want hundreds dollars." The teller asks "how many hundreds dollars?" As far as I know, I just told her. I repeat my line, then she hers for a solid forty seconds before she asks "One hundred? Two hundred?" And then I realise unlike Japanese, where "one hundred" is wrong and "one thousand" uncommon, you need to count the hundereds in Cantonese. Woops.


I have some really grwat translation mistakes made by people whose stuff I bought if anyone can twll me how to upload images.
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Staff member
Hi chairdesklamp, there's only one way to upload an image, and it has to have the correct dot suffix. I've not done it in a while, but I'm pretty sure .gif is always going to work if it's not too large. I don't know what too large might be?

Ok, so that out of the way, the 4th icon in the tool bar of this message box has a triangle, square and circle, click it an choose one of the menu, then enter the www.address of the .gif or other attempt you want to try.

Good luck, I hope that helps.
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I'll upload those online at some point. First, i remembered another antidote. This is now trying to speak Mandarin.

So, I'm in Little Tokyo. There's a podium in front of the market people busk on a lot.

Today, it's an erhu player. I stop, listen, tip him, and go to speak. First in Japanese (I'm not Hispanic and can converse in Spanish), then English.

He says "only Chinese."

Now there's about 100 languages that could be, but in SoCal, it's usually Mandarin. I can't put together a sentence in Mandarin, and go to say I don't speak it.

Instead, I end up saying "I do not speak the country of China."

Either way, I think he got the message.