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A Fourth Language

November 1, 2010

My days are generally spent speaking, or at least listening to, some combination of English, Russian, and Ukrainian. As I have mentioned before, I have started to learn Russian because that is the “everyday” language of Kirovograd. Unfortunately for me, I learned Ukrainian during language training. Well, not really unfortunate. I mean, I can still understand much of the news, dubbed movies, official statements, etc. and when I go to western Ukraine I will not be frowned at for speaking the “wrong” language.

Anyway, so I have been too lazy with Russian. Also been wrapped up in a situation that was stressful and now I am mentally able to devote time and effort to Russian. But I have committed to spending some time with the language on a daily basis – basically, I need vocabulary and verbs.

Today brought a pleasant surprise to me – practice one of my other (now dormant) languages. It was my first day actually working at the Kirovograd National Technical University, and I had a couple of visitors. My first visitor was a young woman I had met at the English Club which is conducted by a couple of TEFL volunteers at the Kirovograd Library. The second was a gentlemen who came in and started a conversation with me – in French.

Creeeeeeak. The rusty wheels of my French-speaking mind started slowly turning. At first, the word that came to mind for a response was Ukrainian or Russian. But the longer we spoke (okay, to be honest, he did most of the speaking), the more I was able to say in response. Oh joy! To be able to bring back that language, and know there is someone with whom I can speak it, is a thrill to me! Maybe if I get good enough at it again, they will let me accompany a group of students to France next summer…or at least to Paris, where they visit before doing their “internship” on farms.

Dare to dream, huh?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    November 1, 2010 11:38 am

    OK, so that is really your 5th language, because you also speak Danish! How wonderful of/for you!!!!!

  2. Heidi permalink
    November 2, 2010 3:24 am

    This was a nice post Karin. 🙂 Especially noting the effect stress can have on language acquisition. I am a bit behind in Danish (speaking or pronunciation, not comprehension). But, I spent the first year here essentially alone on a farm, pregnant with twins in a highly complicated pregnancy. When I did leave the house it was for doctor appointments, obviously done in English as it was essential that I understand completely the situations as they occurred. But… most people don’t know this or can’t understand it. 😀

    And coming across a long-lost personal language… I learned Spanish at some point, and by learned I mean 2 semesters… I can get by, but was never fluent. However, one day in nursing school, we had an ER elderly patient who only spoke Spanish, and the translator wasn’t in yet. I was able to find out that the man had pain, and where, and that this man (who they had been trying to feed all night and were irritated that he wouldn’t)… had had a stroke recently and was not allowed food by mouth. It was nice to use language. (And in case your wondering if this wasn’t apparent without Spanish, yes it was, the ER team there were idiots. I even had to show the nurse who was training me how to give meds to someone who had a stroke and gastric tube.) But it was so nice to use what little Spanish I had to very good effect. The man was crying with relief when I started speaking to him in my very poor Spanish.

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