Journal #16, Reconnecting with a language

It’s a Sunday morning, and I’m in bed with a cup of tea.

My Norwegian Language and Text book is laying discarded on the floor. I’ll pick it up in a moment, I think, I just need to sit here a little longer. Slowly, tired hands reach for all the notions I take for granted when I speak, notions I’ve now worked to put names and categories and theories to.

Learning the in depth grammar of your own language is a strange experience. Suddenly you start to question the syntactic structure of every sentence before it leaves your lips. No words are uttered without scrutinising and analysing their semantic meaning, and you start to think about the oddities of the language you grew up with.

One part of me isn’t too sure about all this “thinking”. It wants to keep the intuition of language alive, wants me to not think too hard about anything, really. Another part of me loves it. It feels like mindfullness, like I don’t take any words for granted any more, like I’m actively appreciating every sentence.

Cliched and a little pompous, I know. But for the last 5 years, I’ve been so caught up in “perfecting” my English, so adamant to drop my accent, to never have to stop to look for the right words, that I feel like I’ve neglected Norwegian a bit. Like I’ve shoved her to the back of my mind, given her a ragged blanket and said “I’ll be back for you in a second,” only to forget about her as her tea has gone cold. But now, as I’m revising for this last exam of this degree’s first year, I’m gently untangling the cobwebs from her hair. I’m taking the cup from her hands, refilling it with piping hot tea, and giving her blanket a good airing out.

Norwegian is the language in which my grandmothers sang me lullabies, and my parents wished me luck before every first day of school. I wrote my first stories in her, and read my first books. When something shiny and new came along, I neglected her for a while, thinking this new language was so much prettier, much more interesting and useful, but studying the science behind how she works as a language, has really made me appreciate her again.

The last couple of weeks have been intense, stressful and honestly really nice. The study group have gotten together to exam-revise, and we’ve made sense of a lot of confusion. We’ve read, we’ve asked questions, we’ve done our best. Copious amounts of tea have been consumed, we’ve bickered and gotten frustrated, but we’ve also left with more questions answered than asked. Throughout this year together, we’ve taken on British and American politics, international communication, English language history, a lot of in depth grammar and linguistics; all things we knew embarrassingly little about before starting this course. Now we know a lot and I’m proud of us.

And so when I take my Norwegian exam tomorrow, I may stumble over some questions, because Norwegian is a stubborn language, and with her tongue stuck out, I think she wants to get back at me for leaving her in her corner for so long. I may mess up some verb forms, some tempus and modus-conjugation, maybe confuse “konjunktiv” for “indikativ” or something else with a complicated name. But that’s okay, cause I’ve finally caught up with my language again, and from now on, I’ll make sure we won’t grow apart.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

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“I think I built you”

I think I built you, formed you and designed you,
drew you with green sharpie and the bricks of my pillow fort,
sculpted you from cheap coffee and H&M basics,
moulded you from a year’s worth of lazy Wednesday mornings,
desperate for something to be mine.

-Andrea

Spring Clean

Come spring, I want to write.
To sweep the cobwebs off of old ideas, place flowers behind my ears and pencils in my pockets. To make up dialogues that have laid dormant and put soul in characters’ eyes. I want to shake winter out of tense shoulders, to pull snow and sleep out of the tips of my fingers, I want to see new places and paint my nails.
Every winter it’s like the cold bogs me down, drowns ideas under the frost, lets fog and rain take a hold of all the things I want to do.
But come April, the sun starts to peek in through the window, like a shy child hiding behind the clouds. Bit by bit, it becomes more confident, and bit by bit, it dares peek out behind its mum’s skirt. And just like that, I want to write. I want to clean up my space, put on fresh bed sheets, air out my room, air out my thoughts. I want to open all the doors and the windows, put loud music on, move around and clear out my head.
I want to create.

-Andrea

“Maybe I Like Honey After All”

“We used to come here for Easter sermons as children, but back then the stone building had stood straight-backed like a school teacher, hushing every childish giggle. Now the doors were wide open and the entrance was decorated with draping curtains of pink and yellow.”

Hello!
This post is my 100th post on this blog! This page has been up and running since February 5th 2018, so that means a 100 posts in exactly one year and two months. Seeing as this blog began as an assignment for my former Creative Writing degree, I figured today I could show you a piece of writing I handed in as coursework, around the same time I started this blog!

So, the piece is from a module called Travel Writing, and it was written in January 2018. It is about the notion of “holidays at home”, and the ways that your hometown can surprise you when you start really looking at all the places you’re so used to existing in. For me, it was going to a festival my hometown puts on every year, for the first time a couple of years ago. Have a read, and thanks for sticking with me for a hundred posts!

-Andrea

“Maybe I Like Honey After All”

                 “You don’t have to buy the honey; you just have to taste it.” She grabbed my arm as I walked past her and shoved a spoon dripping with fresh honey into my hands. “Only local bees.”
I called her the Bee lady in my head. Her hands were rough; a worker’s hands. Wrinkles followed the lines of her face, the price of a long life well lived, and silver hair was gathered in a braid that hung down her back. She had decorated it with flowers for the occasion, greens and pinks and yellows.
“So many people think they don’t like honey at all, but that’s because they’ve only ever tasted the store bought kind.” She shook her head, making the braid dance.

                  “They don’t know how real honey actually tastes.” She winked at me. I thanked her and was about to leave, but she insisted on another spoonful.

                  I bought a jar.

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February Wrap Up

And just like that, February wrapped itself up in its big, woolen scarf and took off. See you in a year, it said, as it tottered away.

February brought with it:

  • New and exciting job opportunities
  • Copious amounts of tea
  • A lot of Sophie
  • Midnight kitchen dancing
  • So many assignments and study groups en mass
  • 11 postcards sent and 10 received
  • New friends
  • An embroidery project that’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done before
  • Huge changes to plans I’d already made (good ones, though, so it’s okay)
  • An IKEA nightstand that needed much love and attention
  • A need to be creative again
  • One poem and one creative piece accepted for publication
  • Sun

Here’s to March being just as good, if not better than February turned out to be.

-Andrea

When your childhood stops by for a minute

When your childhood stops by for a minute, in the shape of a sudden new book in a series who shaped you at 14 years of age, you run to the mail box. You run in your red wellies and your pyjamas, with sleep still misting up the corners of your eyes.

When you open the book for the first time, you’re going to be 14 again, clawing at the covers of what you thought was the end of the story. When you turn the title page, sat on a chair in your student flat-kitchen, you’re going to be transported back to that holiday when you were 10, that time you almost didn’t get in the pool because the story had you more captivated than chlorine water ever could. When you run your fingers along the pristine pages, the shining dust jacket and the black silk bookmark, you’ll remember the feeling of the tattered covers of books reread, of books well-loved, in your 12-year-old hands.

When your childhood stops by for a minute, in the form of a book you thought you’d never read, you put aside linguistic terms and phonetic theory, to dip into this world that welcomes you back, with cloaks and scrolls and fairytales.

When your childhood stops by for a minute, you stop too. You make a cup of tea, you put on some cosy socks.

And just like that, the story never ended.

So, context time! I loved this book series called Phenomena, by Ruben Eliassen, when I was a kid. The first book of the series came out in 2006 and the last in 2011, and these stories were important companions that proper helped shape my reading journey as a child and teen.

Through crowdfunding, the author has now published a new book; one that can either be seen as a finale to the old series, or a new beginning to what happened next in this story. Whether a final bow or an opening number, I’m so so so excited to get into this book, and I can’t wait for a deep dive back into that part of my childhood were the skies in the books were as real as the ones above my head.

Here we go.

-Andrea

“In defence of Foreign accents”

(Draft of a work-in-progress poem)

The goal among the international students at my uni
was to completely drop our accents
to sound like we’d grown up with English birthday songs and ice cream floats.

We wanted to be able to go to any bar, to order any coffee
and keep any conversation going for however long a time,
only to be able to slip in an “oh, I’m not from England, actually”
and watch peoples’ surprise.

We worked so hard to lose our accents,
the sound of what we thought was “not enough practice”,
not good enough.

Oh, how wrong we were.

Accents are identity
just as much as names and clothes and the street corners you crossed on your way to school
Your accent’s where you’ve come from,
the journey to where you are now,
it shows the world you dared to try.

Your accent is your family traditions,
the lessons of your mum’s lullabies,
the laundry songs of your house,
a grandma’s lap,
and the courage it took to get on that plane alone.

Your accent is a road map of the people you care about,
those who took the time to sit with you while you were learning,
who let you spin wonders of the words you didn’t understand
and didn’t mind you trying on their pronunciations for size.

Your accent is your home away from home,
the amalgamation of all that you are and all that you’ve been.

So instead of dropping our accents,
let us celebrate them.
For all that we are,
and all that we’re yet to learn,
and every step along the way.

-Andrea