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…lost in translation again…

March 2, 2011

In keeping with my previous post, I thought it would be interesting to draw a contrast between myself and my kids. Obviously I am old enough to be their mother and they are young enough to be perfectly bilingual. They slip back and forth between English and Portuguese with ease. Translating from one language to another is not something they do often or willingly, but they certainly do it with effortlessly. I find it amazing to watch my nine year old do her homework. Once she has finished all the tasks for the English program, she can sit down without missing a beat and complete a fictional story in Portuguese. For her there is no lag time. However, for me there certainly is. The day I arrived back from Canada after three weeks of only speaking and hearing English, I went to a party. I was in the middle of a long explanation of how much I had enjoyed this book when my friend grabbed my arm and made me stop talking. He said to everyone in ear shot: “Holy smokes, listen to how thick her accent is now!” I was shocked. First, because I was so into André and his book, I couldn’t believe anyone would want to stop me. (I do have a tendency to over-share rant, though!) But the other reason for my shock was that I have been here for seventeen years. I have been married to a native for ten. Why are we even discussing my accent? Or, why does an accent fluctuate SO much? I have been told that my accent is part of my charm, but really, do I need to be reminded of it constantly? Also, why does an accent seem like a failure? Accents can be cool, right? I remember my brother speaking on the phone to friends in Northern Ireland once, when he suddenly turned on their accent. I thought that was hilarious, but in a good way. And then there was Dick Van Dyke in Marry Poppins – that was cool, right? Or, what about Desi Arnaz from I love Lucy who gave us such unforgettable lines like

“Lucy you got some splainin’ to do!”

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