Friday 18 April 2014

On Being Bilingual, Literally

It's a long time since I posted anything. I apologise, but it's because life has been extremely busy and I'm getting ready for another trip to America. I'm sitting in the spring-break-dead University library cafe eating my lunch, a sandwich with leerdammer, Dijon mustard, sundried tomatoes, and red pepper, and a mixture of clementine slices, grapes, and the first of this season's strawberries.

I'm curious to find out a few things about American culture when I visit. For instance, I want to find out if the word "literally" is being abused as much as it is in the UK. And I want to challenge myself to speak American English without dropping in any British terms. I will pronounce garage "ger-RAJ", I will walk down the sidewalk, and I will text on my cell phone. Because I've lived away from America for 15 years this is more difficult than it sounds.

At least nobody tells me I have an English accent (except for Ruth). Seeing as how I lived in America for the first 80 percent of my life it would seem a bit absurd if I talked with anything other than an American accent. I can speak British English fluently, and I can speak and understand Yorkshire English which is even more of a challenge. But this is because I'm bilingual and bicultural, not British. I'll always be American. That's just the fact of my birth and my upbringing.

The thing I'll have the most difficulty with is remembering not to bag my own items at the supermarket, and to pay for petrol -- sorry, gas -- before I pump it rather than after. And, most importantly, to look to the left before crossing the street. I've already been run over by an English bus, so I don't intend to get run over by an American one.

Wish me luck!

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