pauamma: Cartooney crab holding drink (Default)
[personal profile] pauamma
(reposting something I wrote in 2006, following this discussion.)

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me how I felt growing up bilingual (from early childhood as a minority/foreign language speaker, not a bilingual home). Looking back, one thing that stands out is the way I was consistently held (by neighbors, by friends' parents, and in school) to a higher standard than native speakers of a similar age or background. Because of course, any deviation, no matter how small, and no matter how close it was to native-style casual or informal language, had to be ignorance rather than deliberate use. After a while, I began to believe it, and to accept the double standard as natural. Even now, over thirty years after my formal education in English ended, I'm unable to tone down my language without considerable effort, and sometimes outside help.

Granted, there are advantages, both to having above-average abilities in formal writing and to awareness of language levels. As an example, it lets me write stuff such as:
Your prolly rite. I should of rote: [quote deleted] Keeping in mind, however, that my propensity for punctiliously, painstakingly, and superciliously formal, correct, and precise language was remarked upon not altogether favorably in the past (even though I didn't take it to such ludicrous extremes), I have been striving to let the occasional morsel of ever-so-slightly loose or sloppy writing past my internal editor.
Still, it set me apart(*), whether because I was held out as an example to kids who couldn't care less and resented the way I made them look bad by contrast, because I didn't measure up to adults' standards for me (and would occasionally get ridiculed for that), or because I failed to measure down to adults' standards (+). Was it worth that, the relentless pressure to "improve", and the difficulty I have adjusting my language level to match others'? I doubt it, and I still resent the misconceptions and misguided efforts it stemmed from.

(*) To be perfectly honest, that's not the only reason. Moving around every 2-3 years contributed to it.
(+) Sometimes the same adults in both cases. But that's a rant for another day.


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July 2014

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