March 23, 2012

Comment Dit-on?

One of my family's stories is about my Uncle Gene. Gene studied abroad while he was in college, spending a semester living in Vienna, Austria. When he came back from being abroad, my mother says, he used to flaunt it in everyone’s faces, continually asking, “oh wait… how do you say [insert German word] in English again?”

I would always laugh at how pompous Uncle Gene had been, sure of the fact that he was just being snobby and shoving his German knowledge under everyone’s noses.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have become Uncle Gene.

Since moving home, I am often times unable to think up a word in English. My sentences no longer flow. I find myself starting a sentence in a way that only makes sense in French.

I’ve been home for quite a while now, and yet I continue to find myself in situations where my brain is unable to come up with an American equivalent of what I want to say.

Sure, when I came home after a semester of studying abroad in Paris I didn’t have this problem, but when I compare my study abroad experience to my uncle’s (I got to Skype home every weekend and spoke English at school; he never got to call home and was immersed in a German university), I say he really did earn the right to forget English words.

And while I still do feel ridiculous and pretentious every time I forget a word in my native language, I know I’m not doing it on purpose or to show off.

It’s made me “rethink” my opinion of my uncle.

Have you moved back home after a long period abroad? How long did it take you to feel like your English was back to Native-Speaker-Normality? It's been 4 months already, brain, get it together!


  1. I love how you've "become" Uncle Gene! And he'd be so proud of you!

  2. 4 months - I had no clue you had been in the states that long! When you will you be coming back to France?

    1. Hopefully in the fall for my masters! I'll find out in June if I got accepted. If not then.. who knows?

  3. Totally! I was skyping with my mom the other day and I had told her something about my "proprietaire" and it took me like thirty seconds to remember the english translation! It's weird when that happens.

    It makes sense and it's not snobby but people who haven't experience another language and living abroad definitely look at it this way. It's a shame!

    How are you enjoying your time back in the U.S?

  4. Another good blot. You have a lot more in common with uncle Gene than just the language.

  5. Oh yeah, and I too shared your disdain for those types of people (Uncle Gene types). I was also affected by British English -- weirdly enough -- because I'd been in schools where the children spoke British English. Or tried to.

  6. I thought that this was snobbery too, but I'm having the same problem now that I speak Dutch everyday.


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