Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Downsides of Being a Linguist

Photo modified via Black Country Museums

You might be able to tell that I love learning languages (Exhibit A). I love a good natter on and learning languages allow me to widen the net and talk to even more people, lowering the risk of talking my nearest and dearest to death. 

It gives you an almost superhero-like power on the tube, on the bus, in public when you can listen in other people's conversations, who are completely unaware you can understand what they're saying and you're being a nosy beggar by listening in (just me?)

It makes you instantly more interesting, cleverer, sexier - accuse me of bias if you will - I could go on. If it ever comes to it, my (hypothetical) children will be bilingual - how much I envy those lucky devils who have been brought up with two languages. 

That being said, despite the many amazing advantages of learning languages, there is many a downside to being a linguist. It can land you in sticky situations such as:

laughing out loud at a conversation you are in no way, shape or form, part of.

or

starting a conversation with complete strangers in the wrong language.

Sorry Italians.

or

when being put on the spot, completely blank when being asked for a translation of a word, in your own language.

or

on the contrary, you are able to recall a word in countless other languages but not the one you actually need.

or

you know that feeling when you realise too late that you have the perfect comeback? It's worse in another language.

Which coincidentally is l'esprit d'escalier in French

or

getting the green-eyed monster when Dutch or Scandinavian people just casually mention they speak four languages. FOUR.

Pat on the back by the way.

or

After finally building up the courage to go speak to someone in a foreign language, being spoken back to in English.

or

Asking yourself "Did I just say that out loud." On a daily basis.

or

Cringing at the sound of your god-awful accent.

or

Finding out at worst possible moment - think meeting the parents, in a meeting, at border control - that a phrase that you thought all along was something innocent actually has bad connotations.

or

Unfortunately overhearing conversations about you.

I suppose you could call that karma

or

Thinking people are speaking *insert language here* when it just turns out it is actually English.

or

Not being able to say certain foods in an English accent anymore, pronounce it as it should be and therefore sounding like a pretentious knob.

or

Being that one person who orders sparkling water.

Who am I? Europe, you ruined me.

But, the worst problem?

Being naturally irrationally infuriated when H&M have t-shirts with accents on for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON.

Not cool H&M.

Negatives aside, I'll happily take all the embarrassing mishaps, the awkward faux-pas and the unfortunate overhearing for the huge payback that comes with learning languages. But sometimes, just sometimes, you need to vent about the downsides and problems of being a linguist. Language problems and what not.

So now your turn, what do you think are the downsides of learning languages?

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