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Felt like an alien

 Language Learning Forum : Cultural Experiences in Foreign Languages Post Reply
18 messages over 3 pages: 1 2 3  Next >>
Splog
Diglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
anthonylauder.c
Joined 5538 days ago

1062 posts - 3263 votes 
Speaks: English*, Czech
Studies: Mandarin

 
 Message 1 of 18
27 May 2012 at 10:00pm | IP Logged 
I speak Czech well. However, this weekend I attended a wedding in the Czech countryside, and as the day and night progressed I felt more and more like an alien.

Before the ceremony, things were fine, and I chatted away merrily. After the ceremony the drinks started to flow, and the conversation became more and more slang based. Normally, Czechs kindly take into account that I am a mere foreigner, and keep obscure slang to a minimum. On the merry and relaxed occasion of a wedding celebration, this was not the case.

As the night progressed, the band (musician and singer) belted out hit songs from the distant past, then folks songs I had never heard of, and finally theme tunes from shows and films I had never seen. Everybody except me was singing along and laughing out loud, and I felt like a real party-pooper.

The more time I spend immersed the more I realise that catching up on the cultural background is close to impossible, and unless native speakers are constantly adjusting for your own alien background you will soon be lost no matter how good your grasp of the language.
11 persons have voted this message useful



IronFist
Senior Member
United States
Joined 6306 days ago

663 posts - 941 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Japanese, Korean

 
 Message 2 of 18
27 May 2012 at 10:35pm | IP Logged 
Aw man, weddings are usually a ton of fun!

As I was reading your post and I saw you were at a wedding, I was thinking "he probably just needed to have another drink to relax," but in fact it was quite the opposite!

I feel for you. When you don't fit in, you don't fit in, and thinking about it just gets you more and more inside your head, which means you have even less fun, and it gets worse and worse. And then you start thinking to yourself "well should I just pretend like I'm having fun?" and that's the worst because everyone can tell.

Edited by IronFist on 27 May 2012 at 10:36pm

1 person has voted this message useful



Snowflake
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5828 days ago

1032 posts - 1233 votes 
Studies: Mandarin

 
 Message 3 of 18
27 May 2012 at 10:46pm | IP Logged 
My husband periodically reminds me that no matter how good my Mandarin becomes, native speakers will always be able to run rings around me. The opposite is true too. That no matter how great their English seems, I will always be able to run rings around them in that arena. So I take it as another variable that comes into play in interactions.
1 person has voted this message useful



cathrynm
Senior Member
United States
junglevision.co
Joined 5994 days ago

910 posts - 1232 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Japanese, Finnish

 
 Message 4 of 18
27 May 2012 at 10:47pm | IP Logged 
Maybe it's the older you are, the worse this is, because other people the same age are expected to have experienced so much more stuff.

I was thinking about this myself, and for Czech, couldn't you cram this? For Finnish, at least, the top 100 movies lists seem to cover about everything.   How many folk songs could there be? Wouldn't a few hundred or so basically cover it. Maybe with the top 250 pop and folk songs, and you'd have them well enough to fake it.

I admit where this all goes wrong is with Japanese TV.   That the amount of TV in Japan is vast. There's no catching up, ever.




3 persons have voted this message useful



July
Diglot
Senior Member
Spain
Joined 5142 days ago

113 posts - 208 votes 
Speaks: English*, SpanishB2
Studies: French

 
 Message 5 of 18
27 May 2012 at 11:03pm | IP Logged 
I get this all the time here in Spain - jokes from stuff from twenty years ago, songs I
don't know, quotes from radio shows that you've never heard of. It's rotten, especially
since it often doesn't even occur to people that you won't get it and just behave as if
you're a weirdo. At least here, people usually aren't exactly tactful about it either.

I have no idea what to do about it. I don't think you can just look it up, since no-one
writes it down. Eventually, as you spend more time immersing yourself in the culture, you
start to get things from two years ago, things from five. I know people who've lived here
long enough to get almost all of that straightened out. About twenty years seems to do
the trick.
2 persons have voted this message useful



Juаn
Senior Member
Colombia
Joined 5214 days ago

727 posts - 1830 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*

 
 Message 6 of 18
27 May 2012 at 11:35pm | IP Logged 
Splog wrote:
As the night progressed, the band (musician and singer) belted out hit songs from the distant past, then folks songs I had never heard of, and finally theme tunes from shows and films I had never seen.

The more time I spend immersed the more I realise that catching up on the cultural background is close to impossible...


I fail to see how the depth of the culture associated with the language you spent years learning is something to lament. What a bitter disappointment were it otherwise.

If your Czech is as good as you state, you're in a position to imbibe it all. Simply relax and enjoy!
4 persons have voted this message useful



Bao
Diglot
Senior Member
Germany
tinyurl.com/pe4kqe5
Joined 5635 days ago

2256 posts - 4046 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: French, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin

 
 Message 7 of 18
28 May 2012 at 12:33am | IP Logged 
That's exactly the reason why I don't purposely aim for a perfect accent. I'm not a native speaker, and as much as I try to fit in, it's not always possible.

But weddings and family celebrations are something special altogether, because they bring together not only people who share a language and a culture, but who also share a lot of their own personal history with many other members of the group. I've never been good at keeping track of my extended family and all the intricacies of their relationships, and that easily makes me feel out of place when I attend their parties. I can catch up on the pop culture with enough effort, but not on personal experience. Just like children whose entire family lives in the city probably never experience how it is to play in fresh straw and hay and all the hundreds of things you can do on a farm, just like I never will experience how it feels to pee your name in the snow, there are some differences that just have to be accepted.
Just fit is as much as you can keep up, smile as long as it's not forced and laugh when you actually get the joke. I doubt they expect you to behave like your average Czech man who grew up with all of the others - and yet you were invited, included.
4 persons have voted this message useful



hrhenry
Octoglot
Senior Member
United States
languagehopper.blogs
Joined 4999 days ago

1871 posts - 3642 votes 
Speaks: English*, SpanishC2, ItalianC2, Norwegian, Catalan, Galician, Turkish, Portuguese
Studies: Polish, Indonesian, Ojibwe

 
 Message 8 of 18
28 May 2012 at 12:43am | IP Logged 
On the other hand, what a great learning experience!

I hope it didn't get you too down, and you were able to appreciate the opportunity. We can live in another place for 20+ years and STILL get to experience new things.

Maybe a few days on, you can ask a native what some of these new things mean (assuming you're able to recall them).

R.
==


2 persons have voted this message useful



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