Mixed accent and voices in my head

Posted by & filed under Multilingual identity.

"New Life" Russian translation of Orhan Pamuk's "Yeni Hayat"

At the risk of sounding like I am crazy, I hear multilingual voices in my head. To learn native pronunciation, I first hear a native speaking in my head.   When we see things in our heads, we refer to that as seeing with the mind’s eye. How about when we hear native speakers of foreign languages in our heads? Shall we call that “in the mind’s tongue”? My accent changes and I hear native accents in my head without any deliberate effort. My mind’s tongue has a mind of its own!   Brazilian and Portuguese flags Given how I have had both European Portuguese and Brazilian influences along my journey to learning Portuguese, I have a mixed accent. When I’m in Brazil, people ask me if I have lived in Portugal or if I have Portuguese family because my vowels are more closed, like Portuguese vowels. But in Portugal, people often ask me if I’ve lived in Brazil or if I have Brazilian family because I pronounce a “d” followed by an “e” as a “zh” sound.   My accent is Brazilian with my consonant and vowel combinations and Portuguese by my vowels. When I put those together, I have a mixed… Read more »

Language gaps: Lived vs. learned languages

Posted by & filed under How to learn languages with songs and the media.


There’s a big difference between a learned and a lived language. It took a carrot to make that difference abundantly clear to me. In California, I sometimes speak Portuguese in the weekly pagode group I attend, where I sing samba music. Sometimes I read news articles in Portuguese, but my regular exposure to the language is limited. Being in Portugal for six days in late 2017 and early 2018 was a welcome re-entry into the language. I even held a Portuguese-language film screening of Saved by Language (about how the Ladino language saved a Bosnian boy’s life in the Holocaust) in Lisbon that was covered by the local Portuguese press. Even though I could speak about endangered languages in Portuguese, I had a funny incident when ordering my first meal! Tired, jet lagged, and hungry, I went to eat at a local tasca restaurant in the Graça area of the Alfama neighborhood soon after arriving in Lisbon. I asked the restaurant owner which vegetables came with the grilled salmon I had ordered. The woman said cenoura (carrot). Embarrassed that I didn’t know what the word was, I asked her to show me the vegetable. She showed me a carrot, and said,… Read more »

Le mistral gagnant: Rediscovering my inner Francophile in India and Quebec

Posted by & filed under Benefits of multilingualism, Multilingual identity.

  One missing digit    One missing digit (not a finger!) almost kept me from going to India. En route to Chennai (Madras), I had a rude awakening at the Frankfurt airport: my passport number in my Indian e-visa was missing one number! I hadn’t noticed the missing digit when I received the email with my Indian e-visa. The airline check-in people at the San Francisco airport also hadn’t noticed the mistake. The German customs official would not let me through customs to my India-bound flight. I only had an hour to sort out my visa before the plane was going to board and I was getting stressed about how to fix my problem without being stuck in Germany or being forced to return to San Francisco. Indian e-visa logo My only option was to call the Indian e-visa company in India and ask them to change the e-visa immediately and send me an email with my new visa. I thought I would use the Indian SIM card in my international mobile phone to call the Indian e-visa company. It turns out that my Indian SIM card didn’t work outside of India. Instead of the Indian e-visa company, I called… Read more »

Not learning languages reduced job prospects

Posted by & filed under Benefits of multilingualism, How to learn languages with songs and the media.

This article came out earlier this year from the UK showing that state jobs require foreign language knowledge while fewer school offer language classes. This means that more people will have to learn on their own. Perhaps they could use my book, Language is Music? Foreign languages are ‘elitist’ subjects A generation of children is being left behind as foreign languages become “elitist” subjects dominated by private school pupils, according to research. By Graeme Paton, Education Editor, Telegraph, 20 Jan 2010

Integrating parents in language education

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New Haven schools get $1.3M for language studies; Chinese, Arabic to be expanded By the New Haven Register In Connecticut, the school systems is expanding its Chinese and Arabic language classes and including parents in the learning process. See this quote: “Part of the grant “involves the design and implementation of a Saturday program where students and parents attend separate classes focused on the language program the child has chosen. Parents will learn basic language skills and cultural aspects, and there will be field trips that parents and students enjoy together,” the statement said.” Great idea to get the parents involved!

Even spies need to read my book!

Posted by & filed under How to learn languages with songs and the media.

Having just read this article written by Nikita Khrushchev’s great grand-daughter about how one of the Russian spies couldn’t hide his Russian accent makes me both laugh and wonder why the Russian government spent so much money on a spy who could not learn American English to perfection. Learning a language is not just about imitating an accent, it’s also about becoming like the person of the target language and adapting to life as one of them. Read on, this is a great article. The Spy Who Came in by Amtrak: Why is Russia spying on Khrushchev’s great-granddaughter?