I’m sitting in an empty airport terminal in Germany right now, waiting for my connecting flight that will take me to the United States. When I land tomorrow it will be the first time I’ve touched American soil in nearly two years.
A lot of things have changed since I’ve been gone. I can honestly say I’m not the same person now as when I left — and I’m proud of that.
But still, I’m nervous. I’m nervous to confront how I’ve changed, how my world has changed. I’m nervous about being thrown back into a society driven by the needs of individuals (and not communities). I’m nervous about surrounding myself with things I’ve learned to live without — my family, my friends, my dogs, Texas barbecue…
But I’m also nervous about something a little less abstract…
As time has ticked on and my Arabic fluency grown, my hold on the English language has slowly been falling out of my grasp. I find it more difficult to recall words and realize that my use of advanced vocabulary has sharply decreased.
It isn’t uncommon for me to say “What is it called when…?” or “What is the opposite of…?” during conversations in Arabic so that I can learn new vocabulary.
Except I do it in English now too.
It’s as if my English and Arabic language proficiencies operate inversely to one another, often leaving me feeling voiceless in both.
(Side note: it took me 5 minutes sitting here mid-paragraph to find the word “inverse” in my brain.)
Recently I’ve been keeping a list of all the words I’ve forgotten mid-conversation in English. When applicable I’ve included in parentheses what I said instead of the correct word. Here is the list for your viewing pleasure.
Words I Forget in English (Part I):
- waiting tables (waitering?)
- drill team (kick team?)
- greenhouse gases
- opaque (not… transparent?)
- light bulb (that thing that makes light?)
- carbon dioxide
- burnt out (died?)
- suspend (block?)
- excluding (discluding?)
- permanent (things that don’t go away?)
- trivet (those things you put hot plates on?)
- the straw that broke the camel’s back (the needle that broke the haystack?)
America, I can’t wait to see ya.
Just please be kind to me and my English, okay?