For those who know me, it is no secret that I love to talk and I love languages. I love learning them, practicing them, deciphering them, learning about them – I guess I am a little bit of a hobby linguist. I am a native speaker of Norwegian, and consider myself fluent in English, Spanish and Italian, with a decent knowledge of French (I can speak it fine, I can read it fine, but sometimes struggle with understanding spoken French), and an intermediate level of American Sign Language (ASL.) I could, at one point, read a little Hebrew too, but that was mostly limited to sounding out words, and not understanding what they meant! But it was fun to tackle a new alphabet for the first time and I wouldn’t mind picking it back up. Oh, and I can understand quite a bit of Portuguese (one former boss was Brazilian) and people say I have good pronunciation when I give it a try. (I did a Pimsleur CD course back in 2008 when I went on vacation to Brazil – the listening only-method works well for practicing pronunciation.)
This was basically a very long way of saying that I enjoy languages, a lot. But my real point with this post was a small revelation I had the other day, when reading the wonderful blog of a Norwegian woman living in Belgium, C’est la vie! I have read her blog for a long time and feel her perspective very interesting, and sometimes, but not always, familiar. She writes a lot about language, the struggle to learn French, to reach a level where people take her seriously, where she can make good friends, all that very important stuff. Some of it I recognize very much, while other things seem kind of foreign to me (pardon the pun.) Then I came across an older post of her that I had somehow missed: It’s time for quiet. Here, she writes about the best-selling book of the same name, and how it gave her a revelation: being an introvert can be pretty difficult when it comes to learning a new language, a new culture, new social norms. She writes about how her integration process has often been painful and how part of that is related to the fact that as an introvert, she recharges her batteries by being alone, being quiet, while language learning and integration is a lot about being with people, engaging, conversing. Fascinating!
I have of course noticed before that I have certain personality traits that make it easier for me to learn languages: I like to meet new people, I talk a lot, and I am never worried about making a fool of myself when trying to speak a new language (or adapting to a new dialect, like here in Argentina.) But I had never thought about languages and being an extrovert before, but it makes a lot of sense! Because for me, it is refreshing and somewhat relaxing to sit around with a group of people and try to talk. It gives me energy and makes me feel good. So it means I don’t have to force myself to do any of those things that are important for language acquisition; they come naturally to me.
I found all of this very interesting and I am so glad fellow blogger C’est la vie made me aware of this book and therefore, made me have the same eureka moment that she had. The difference of course is that for me, it meant that my personality makes it easier for me to learn and practice languages. The downside of this, of course, is that I am not the linguistic genius that I thought I was! 🙂