a helpful gloss over your basic oddity

One of the weirdest things about trying to learn a new language is how it just totally obliviates your personality. Have a sense of humor? Now you don’t. That sort of thing. And, even weirder, even as your personality is more or less consigned to oblivion, it somehow becomes a lot more stark. That helpful gloss over your basic oddity is just stripped away. This means my introduction has me saying things along the lines of “I prefer the company of the dead to that of children because children are noisy and the dead are quiet.”

Like, it might be true but it’s also a little blunt.

Yeah, so much this. I’ve become horribly aware of the extent to which my identity is tied up in my facility for linguistic play in my birth tongue; fumbling along with my 2,000 words of Swedish reduces me to a shabby and unreconstructed middle-aged alt-rock reject who can’t express the late-stage Gen-X-ish irony that is the bedrock of what passes for his personality.

Of course, most people here speak at least some English—but even my colleagues often don’t speak it well enough to get the constant flow of gags I make at my own expense, and at the expense of a world to which exasperated irony is about the only response I have left to me beyond despair. Either which way, I guess some re-engineering of the self is necessitated for the sake of social survival…

One thought on “a helpful gloss over your basic oddity”

  1. Interesting – working in a global organisation where many have (American) English as a second language means I spent years scraping the subtlety/ambiguity and (British) humour out of my conversations. It took me a long time to notice I had stopped using standard analogies and references to shared experience – but it eventually have me the opportunity to create my own invented analogies which became a fresh expression of myself.

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