by Melinda Gallo

Mixing languages

It's funny when I speak French and an Italian word pops into my mouth. The entire sentence comes out clearly and then BAM an Italian word. It's not even that the words are that close; it's more that they're just words I say habitually in Italian. "Ah sė." I mean "Oh, oui."

I guess I'm the only one really amused by this cerebral hide-and-seek, but it's quite interesting. An entire sentence and all of a sudden "una parola" (a word) comes to me in Italian. They don't even sound the same, for example "word" in French is "mot."

So, I wonder if I just have enough room in my brain for two languages at a time and not three. Of course, I'm kidding, but it's peculiar that it happens only when I speak French. When I speak Italian, I don't have that problem...although I do deny that I speak any French in Italy ever since someone said I had a French accent.

Any time anyone tells me that I have an accent, I feel that they're just one step away from making fun of me. And maybe that is why I tried so hard to learn French perfectly and without an accent. It took a lot of effort (and I'm sure one of my parents passed on a gene to me that didn't hurt either), but I just didn't want to get labeled as the "typical American." Not because I deny my heritage, but because that's just the beginning of a bad joke.

If they peg my accent, I figured that I'd be next. The barrage of stereotypes about Americans would be unleashed: we're all loud, we're all overweight, we're all obnoxious, we all drink Coke, we all eat at McDonald's, we drive big cars, and we all go to the beach every day (because I'm from California).

I absolutely hate stereotypes. Not because I don't think that there is a grain of truth to them, but because people don't want to know anything more about you. They somehow get the idea that they know you because they watched the last episode of "Friends" on TV.

And so, I guess I realize that I was motivated to learn French more by fear than anything else. But, I guess whatever works, right?

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