Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oral Processing

We were on our way our the door when I discovered a Nintendo DS cartridge in my son's backpack.

"What's this?" I asked.

"Oh, it's just leftover from my sleepover. I forgot to pack it out."

"You mean unpack it," I corrected while Child #1 stifled a laugh.

"Yeah, uh-huh."

And we were off. On the way home I thought about Child #2's linguistics. From the time he was little he's always been creative with words, both prononciation and application. He played with disanours and requested hangabers for dinner.

As he gets older, he's been known to use his language skills as an offensive technique. Word to the wise, if you're slated to play the Blue Bombers this spring, don't talk to the kid on third base. He'll only distract you from completing your homerun.

The more I thought about Child #2's urge to communicate, proper words notwithstanding, I realized he might have come by this trait genetically. I moved to France after college with little to no practical knowledge of the language. You might think that would prevent me from making friends and having an active social life, but there you would be wrong.

Instead of listening quietly, I inflicted my baby French on everyone I met until eventually, baby French became grown up French.

In my current incarnation as mom and writer, much to Child #1's burgeoning discomfort, I talk to everyone I meet. This is why I know the check out clerk at Trader Joe's is named after a flower and all the details of a certain barista's divorce.

And even if there's a language barrier, I still manage to have interesting conversations. I'll try English, fall back on French, poke my husband to see if he can come up with the phrase in Italian or Japanese and if all else fails, I resort to pantomime.

The more I thought about this trait, the more I realized it's more than just social butterflyness or chattiness. My son and I process our lives through interaction. Our experiences of the world aren't concrete until we've discussed them, literally felt them slip-slide over our tongue. We're oral processors. And language, as it turns out, is nothing more than an obstacle course. If you tackle it in the right way, you find yourself going around, over and under it.

The important thing is finding your way through to the other side.

So whether you unpack, pack it out; tell everyone you meet you plan to be an avocado instead of a lawyer or cause well-meaning Italian men to blush all kinds of red by telling them you love to eat "fica", eventually the misunderstandings get straightened out and you're on your way to a conversation.

And if you're lucky, you might just be taken to a fig orchard, which incidentally is pronounced fichi, and told to pick as many as you want.

Are you an oral  processor? If not, how do you process your world?


Beylit said...

You sound like my husband. He says it is a result of having grown up in New Orleans, but I think it is just in his blood. He has never met a stranger. We joke that he could go into the Hispanic part of town (since he doesn't know a lick of Spanish) and come out three hours later with his new friends Juan and Pablo and Joe and are going down tot he bar for a cerveza despite none of them speaking the same language.

My mom is that way too as was my grandmother and my aunt come to think of it. They will talk to anyone anywhere. My Aunt once carried on an entire several hour conversation with Harry Connick Jr and didn't even know who he was until later.

I was apparently skipped in this habit. I love to talk to people, but I rarely talk to strangers. I am more of a people watcher than a people communicator. If they talk to me I will talk back, but honestly I would rather they just leave me alone.

Of course with the family I have and the husband I married, I never really need to strike up conversations with strangers, they have already done it.

Connie J Jasperson said...

I am also verbal. Words and the various ways they can be used and misused ahave become not only tools for communication, but they are oral game-tokens.

Emily R. King said...

I have never been great at languages. It's a talent I don't possess, but I think if I worked on it I could. Most of the time though, I just feel stupid trying to imitate another language. I can't even fake accents well. :)

Anonymous said...

I always laugh at some of the things my kids say. Like my son (3) saying "What's that path?" when referring to a street.

As far as fica goes...{redacted}. {blush}

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Mostly internally and through written word, but I do tend to strike up a conversation with everyone I meet. It's just good manners.

jaybird said...

My girls always roll their eyes and ask, "Do you have to talk to EVERYONE mom?" Yep. I do.

I love to meet new people and language serves no barriers for me either. I think, like Gaga, I was just born this way. I made friends with this adorable young couple from Myanmar I met at our fav sushi place. The Husband and I somewhat adopted them, because they have no family here. We have them over to our house all the time, although neither of us speaks the other's language very well at all. :)

Johanna Garth said...

Beylit, that's funny about the Harry Connick, Jr conversation!!

Connie, I just love the phrase oral game tokens.

Emily, HAPPY Birthday! And I bet in the right circumstances you'd surprise yourself. redacted something! On my blog!! LOL

Alex, see, I am so with you on the good manners.

Jaybird, I've met so many interesting people in exactly the same way!

Gwen Gardner said...

It's funny but I'm not much of a talker or socializer. I'd much rather write because it gives me time to process what I really want/mean to say. Somehow, orally, my words don't seem to come out right. But good for you, that you can talk to anybody!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I love learning about people and good conversations. So that means talking, lol! I got gigged on it a lot when I was growing up. I'd get, "How did you KNOW that?" Simple, I asked. My sibs and I made up lots of words.

And yes, it's good manners plus, as a kid and as I grew up, there were plenty of dinner parties and functions where small talk is de riguer. Best way I know is to start asking questions and get them talking about themselves. That way I never got in trouble for sitting there and ignoring our guests.

So,were all the reactions to fica blushes or did you get a few considering looks?


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I know how to chatter! I suppose that's why professional speaking is so much fun. But I like the interaction part more.

And in my rush to say things, I've made up more words than I can keep track of. My husband's favorites are dramstically (dramatically & drastically,) stuffing stockers (stocking stuffers,) and greefy leans (leafy greens.) We still use those to this day.

PK HREZO said...

I love trying new languages. And us getting words wrong in foreign countries is just as cute as foreigners getting English wrong. Communicating with others who speak different languages is a lot of fun!

We actually sit around the dinner table and make up words and definitions.

Unknown said...

Oh, you should see how I mutilate the pronunciation of words. And I'm great at creating my own words while thinking they are real ones. Your child must be related to me. :D

Unknown said...

I'm not verbal. I process by thinking things out, writing them down, planning to share them during my next conversation, and then sometimes deciding no one would be interested! Pathetic, or what? :)

Chuck said...

Johanna, I amuse myself daily with odd turns of phrase that sadly most people don't get. But they figure I must be brilliantly educated and usually respond with, "what the hell is that??" Hey, and least they are interested!!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Maybe your son will be a writer someday too, and the way he reinvents language could be incorporated into his stories. I think it's good that you talk and interact with everyone, including the store clerks and baristas. When I worked in retail, several customers often treated me like I was some kind of robot; when the rare customer would ask me how my day was or what my job was like, I'd always look up in surprise that they actually cared what my answer was.

Unknown said...

My brother was a bit like that when he was young, being creative with words - some of which we still use on occasion, just for fun! (eg. pepping-one = peppermint)

Carol Kilgore said...

I love those creative words!

I chat with people, and I've learned a lot of Spanish just by listening, repeating, and mimicking.

I had to look up 'fica'. Funny!

Elise Fallson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elise Fallson said...

I currently live in France and have raised my kids to be bilingual. It's funny because they do sometimes phrase their English à la Française but they're still young. I think I process my world more internally. I'm a bit shy on the outside, and usually need a few minutes to shake off the nervousness. Then once I start talking, it's hard to stop me! LOL
Anyway, if you ever come back to France for a visit, let me know!

Misha Gerrick said...

I sort of process all over the place, but I can say that I usually make final decisions as soon as I've spoken/written about it.

Also, I know what you mean. With no knowledge of German, I went to Germany and got on just fine with very little English outside my hotel. :-D

Misha Gerrick said...

P.S. I also mess around with wording when I speak and write.

As a result, I get annoyed when people correct me, because my "mistakes" are intentional.

Oh well. :-D

Unknown said...

FIGS! I haven't had fresh figs since I left California... Duh...figs.
Ummm. Okay, Where was I?
Very intruiging post and yes, I am an O.P. indeed. And because of your lovely revelation about imposing "baby French" on everyone, I will continue to blabber to a lovely senior I know who speaks fluent French. She is most patient with me, and half the time I don't think she is listening, or can remember it, UNTIL I ask her "Qu'est ce que c'est le mot?" and she tells me.
Merci beaucoup!
~Just Jill
P.S. Figs said...

I'm a visual processor and often get words mixed up, or I can clearly visualize what I want to say but am at a loss for words. However, I appreciate the "fica"/"fichi" line, and will try either one on the next handsome man I see. Will keep you posted.


E. Arroyo said...

My husband is the same way. I'm more of a visual person. I can "read" people pretty well, but don't say much. Sounds creepy. lol