Thursday, November 13, 2008

Native speaker?

So, I'm finally back to studying. Maybe "studying" is a little bit too much. let's just say I'm back to reading things related to linguistics and, more specifically, applied linguistics. I have been reading something on this field because I am trying to make sure this is really the path I want to follow. I'm still not sure, but I do think the subject is just fascinating. I just feel the opportunities to work in the area are sometimes limited to teaching...I love teaching, but I don't know whether this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I just don't know. As I wrote in my previous post, I would really enjoy to have a job that would let me travel, and teachers don't travel much :/

Anyways, let us forget for a second about my future and try to understand my present. My readings. In the book I'm reading, Applied Linguistics by Guy Cook, I have read a lot of things that made me question myself. As we all know, the native speaker is that speaker that should be able to grasp the language in a way that he/she could see what is a proper and improper construction in the language. 

These days I was working with my father on a translation from Portuguese to English. We both worked on it, but there were times when I saw that my father, who never studied either linguistics or translation (but he does translate a lot as a personal hobby and does read a lot), did a much better job than I could. This made me question my abilities with languages. In fact, even though I do not have all the experience he has with the Italian language, I have lived in Brazil for 7 years (and he lived there for a little more than 3 years). Besides, for the whole time I lived in Brazil, I studied and read and had contact with the Portuguese written and academic language. However, my dominion of the language is not as his.

For me this is a little frustrating. I was born in Brazil and my first language was Portuguese. Then, I moved to Italy, where I was raised speaking Italian. At the age of 16 I used to know no Portuguese at all and moving back to Brazil was not that easy. Even so, I am usually considered bilingual (but I have to admit some people think I have a slight accent when I speak Portuguese). What I would like to understand is: am I native apeaker of any language at all? Because I do not feel as a perfectly fluent speaker of neither Portuguese or Italian. maybe this is why I concentrated all my efforts in learning English, but how proficient will I ever be in a language I didn't grow up with? And mastering a language requires time, effort, and sometimes even money...could I ever be equally proficient in all three? Hardly... 

Anyways, a lot of people know three languages is not that hard. Problem is, most people are "native speakers" in one language and know other languages. My problem is: am I a native speaker of any language at all? Because I don't feel like one...

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