Thursday, November 06, 2014

I can't get started with you

心配でしたよ、すごく。わたしは中国語が強よくなればなるほど、日本語を失ってしまわないかと。When I was learning Japanese it eroded my French in such an unnerving way - I'd start a simple sentence in French and be unable to complete it, totally paralyzed - that I thought I might only have capacity for one foreign language at a time. As my Chinese gets off the ground will it be sayonara nihongo? Perhaps not!

My friend H has been here most of a day, and I've been nattering on in Japanese without too much problem (to the amusement of Chinese bystanders). At two kinds of juncture, though, I sense that same paralysis approaching. The first is when a very ordinary word won't come to me - the Chinese word just squats there and won't let anything else through. That happened with the word twenty, whose Japanese I suddenly couldn't remember for the life of me or even reconstruct.

The second is more basic still - I can't get a sentence started because I'm thinking the Chinese sentence, whose structure is different; indeed I can't recall how to start the sentence in either language! That happened a few times as I tried chatting to myself in Japanese in preparation for H's visit; I find I need to leap into a sentence already in motion, since the starting point to speaking in Chinese won't disclose itself to me. It sounds odd, I'm sure, but I can get off and running if I can jump into a multisyllabic phrase like なかな出来ない or 思ったほど難しくない. Still I got stuck trying to say I had two slices of bread for H's breakfast and was reduced to English! 恥ずかしい and 不好意思了!

I suppose I ought tbe rejoicing that Chinese got into my system enough to cause such problems, huh!

(Picture above: the smog-reddened moon reminded H of the 日の丸.)

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