Thursday, 2 June 2016

"Are you thinking in English?"

someone asked me yesterday.
I had gone to the local library because I needed to enlarge a sheet of work to A3 size - something I can't do at home. It is a communication board which uses Turkish, Arabic and Blissymbols.  And yes, I am struggling with it. I am quite at home with Blissymbols and Turkish is fine because it uses the Roman alphabet but Arabic is...well, I am finding it difficult. I always find Arabic difficult. The alphabet is different. It gets written "the wrong way around" and I find it (almost) impossible to use a dictionary. 
A friend of the Senior Cat remarked, "It must be almost as hard as Chinese." 
I actually find Chinese easier. I had to learn some Chinese characters once. I didn't actually learn them as Chinese. I looked at them and read them according to their English meaning. I have forgotten most of them know. You do forget things like that if you don't need to use them.  
It is Arabic that gets me - and some of the other languages which I have come across that don't use the Roman alphabet. I hate it. I don't hate the languages themselves. I hate my inability to use them as easily those alphabets as easily as I use my own.
The person who asked me the question was a complete stranger. He was waiting to use the photocopier in the library and I had put one sheet, right side up, on the table next to the copier. He could see it without being unduly inquisitive.
I explained briefly what it was and he looked some more while I did something else. Then he looked at me and asked,
      "I'd really like to know though. When you look at that what are you thinking in. Is it English or is it something else? How do you see it?"
I had to think about that. There was no English to be seen. That often happens. I knew what was there on the board though. I knew what it meant. Blissymbols are a bridge between languages but what if you know the symbols and not the languages?
Did I know it as English or as something else? I don't know. I suppose I know it as English. English is my first language - the only one I actually speak. 
But if I was in the destination this board is intended for  could I communicate? Yes, I should be able to communicate at least  at the basic level this is intended for. What does that say about the way I am thinking? What does it say about the way we communicate?


Beryl Kingston said...

Thanks for the link. Fascinating. I'll write further when I've finished my chores.

catdownunder said...

would really like to know what you think Beryl!