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The two languages within me (bi-lingualism)

Monday, October 29th, 2007 @ 1:38 pm
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Posted in  Personal Process

One of the themes that come out in my research is the use of a second language by those therapits that move to a host culture, including myself, and how this affect the relationship with one’s own mother tongue and generally how the two operate in the internal self-dialogue, inner space. I had an email conversation with a male friend who noted that i have the tendency to speak like an ‘academic’ often and not as a ‘woman/ person’, even when it is out of context. This lead me to reflect on my use of languages and i wrote an interesting response which hopefully describes some of this experience:I wrote:

“I don’t know how to put it into words, exactly because the whole matter is about words and the use of language: you know, when you make yourself a foreigner, in a foreign land, a foreign language, an unfamiliar set of cultural values, manners etc, there is a lot of deep, often invisible process going on. To put it on more simple words: this is my 7th year in England and I have been studying and working in a field that requires advanced level of language, often academic language. All the books I have been reading were academic, I was working in the NHS amongst mental health colleagues etc, I have forgotten how to express emotion in simple everyday language. Also, in my personal life, I haven’t been with a Greek for about 8 years now, I haven’t said the phrase ‘I love you’ in my own language for all these years…and you know what? Where I feel mostly a stranger now is in my homeland, in Greece, which is very odd and often disturbing. It is what we call ‘reverse cultural shock’ that is experiences by many people who live abroad. And this is also one of the reasons I feel I need to go and settle in Greece, although it does feel alien even to me often, cause I need to make peace with my roots again, I need to re-visit my home in new ways in order to be able to feel at home with my own self, if you know what I mean. Also, bear I mind that practising as a counsellor in England, has brought a deeper emersion of mine in this host culture, I am not like an engineer or somebody who site in front of a computer doing whatever. I have been working with people’s emotional world, this has altered my own inner state in profound ways…my last job was at the University counselling service but I gave it up a year ago and am not seeing clients now cause am focusing on this research which has to do with this very topic in my personal story…you remember all this about ‘managing cross-cultural transitions’? This is what I am working on within myself and the colleagues I am interviewing; we look at all this that happens to you when you move between cultures etc…

So, to stop being academic, what am trying to say is that I really want to be able to step out of my academic bit  but its not always easy, sometimes I don’t know where the boundary is…the two languages live in me and am thinking in English when in England (I even dream in English if you can believe me). When I go to Greece, it takes about a week or so to start having dreams in Greek again, the more I hear the language the more I ‘remember’ or sth in my unconscious adjusts again

So, it’s important for me to reach some balance with the use of language. I think that couples of different cultural backgrounds that one of them at least uses a second language shall be keeping all this in mind, no matter how good the level of second language is….cause our heart or unconscious doesn’t speak any language…there is a lot of metaphor and imagery and other kind of ‘mediums’ there…

 Have I lost something in all this migrant life? Am I gaining something due to the loss of the familiar? I know I have become more of a liminal person….more tolerance with the unknown…but also tiredness etc. One think I can clearly share is that there is growth and expansion in that loss….so, am getting more and more close to meeting who I am, through looking what used to be familiar from a distance and mixing with difference in profound ways”

Such processes are also described by my participants, in their own words. This is a topic i need to look further in the litearture

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