Public transpo and language-brains
1. Today Miriam and a few friends went downtown on their own after school to celebrate a birthday by watching a movie at the theater. They coordinated bus schedules so that even though they got on at different stops, they ended up on the same bus. After the movie, they took the bus together back to one girl's house. These girls are 11 and 12 years old. I love the independence, bravery, and self-sufficiency that Miriam gets to excercise by using public transportation.
2. Usually when you unexpectedly speak someone's native language to them, they are pleasantly surprised. Not so with (many) Russians. If you spring your Russki skills on an unsuspecting Russian, they will look at you so weird. I don't know all the reasons behind it, but this has been my experience in the 15 years since I have spoken some degree of Russian. Never surprise Russians by speaking Russian to them, unless you can pass as a native (those days have passed for me, unless it's a brief exchange). So, the other day, we met some Russians and Jeremy and I, having made meaningful eye contact with each other in order to remind ourselves of the protocol, carried on speaking with them in Finnish. Until me and my messy closet of a language-brain apparently could not resist breaking out into Russian, mid-conversation. I stopped myself two words in and went back to Finnish, but I think they noticed. And in that moment, I probably confirmed every reason Russians have to be suspicious of foreigners who speak Russian (what are we hiding???). Ugh, I am the worst.
3. However, in the same conversation, but in Finnish, since Jeremy's language-brain is impeccably organized (seriously, he's got like drawer separators and everything), Jeremy managed to ask "when is Vappu [a holiday; it's this weekend]" instead of "when is it available?" We had a good laugh. BUT AT LEAST IT WAS FINNISH. He is able to separate his languages so much better than me. I often can FEEL what seems like a physical process of my brain picking languages up one by one and inspecting them (i.e., saying stuff out loud) to see if it's what's required. An Arabic-speaking Kurdish guy used to come to church and I would do my best to translate the basic idea of Sunday School for him. And every week, my brain would be like, "what was it you needed again? Was it this Russian stuff [always with the Russian!]? Or this dusty Spanish from literally seventh grade? Does that help?" Lovely.
How is your language brain? Is everything neat and tidy and separated, or do you feel like you have a rummage bin situation going on up there?