Rain gently blueberrying bracketed blossoms
Moon-scented swirls of entropical rage
Pale shades of blue on a clean slab of yellow
Shreds of beheaded banana in cage
I find it impossible to learn another language without playing with its chunks. The little poem above was one of my linguistic experiments with English. At the time, I thought I was just throwing new vocabulary words together into a rhythm of my liking. But the words I chose, and especially the way I combined them, channeled my mood at the time. So, the sum of the parts was lesser than the whole.
I had a great time during this mad dash across language barriers. Linguistically, I was in limbo – not fluent in English yet, no more current with my native tongue, patches of Greek and Latin poking me at most importune moments, German grammar raising its ugly head… The fun ended abruptly, when one of my professors wrote me a note, saying that I write “exceedingly well.” A comment like this makes you self-conscious and eager to fit in. It’s like someone telling you that you are pretty – oh the loss of freedom that comes with such compliments.
That’s why I loved the advanced Latin prose composition, where we had to translate a letter from Mao Tse-tung to his minister of culture into an epistolary Latin of our choice. Cut-and-paste, cut-and-paste. Language chunks are anonymous and lifeless until you adopt them. I loved that class.
I carefully observe what native speakers do with English. They adopt chunks too. Cut-and-paste, cut-and-paste. Rearrange and recombine. And go on to the next. It’s a great way to keep your talk current. By the way, because I don’t have the opportunity to practice Bulgarian – except when I talk to my mom and her other offspring (and his family) – my Bulgarian is now officially ancient.