Image Source: fanpopI've become obsessed with the show Switched at Birth. With the information I've just given you, you've probably already guessed the storyline. Teenage girls, raised by the wrong parents.
And plot twist! One daughter is deaf.
There are silent scenes in the show where everyone is just signing and I'm reading subtitles. (You know how much I love subtitles!) I've gotten the whole family pseudo into it. It has resulted in Ella trying to speak to me "with her hands." And Billy, tearing up with me at the drama, waving his arms, hollering, "Why do you always make me watch these things?"
It's a fascinating show, especially the romanic relationship between the hearing daughter and her deaf boyfriend. (Sorry if that's a spoiler for you...)
There was a conversation between the boy and his mother, who is also deaf. She said something that has stuck with me: "She doesn't know your language. She will never know you."
Billy does know my language. Still, when we first met I was worried he wouldn't truly "get me." I have such a love affair with words that I have been asked more than once, by native English speakers, if I read the dictionary for fun. I do not. (I cannot say the same for my friend Thesaurus.)
But I do not know his language. And sometimes I worry that it could be a problem. Naturally, I like to run crisis scenarios by him for practice. For example, I'll concoct a situation where he's in the hospital, his only injury being the part of his brain that knew English. "What will we do????" I badger him dramatically.
"Um... you'll learn Spanish," he says like it's that easy. Or laughing, he replies, "Or probably I'll re-learn English before you can learn Spanish." It's the perfect time to punch him... aiming for the part of his head that speaks Sarcasm.
In reality, though, I know Billy is really funny in Spanish. It's not that he's not funny in English. But whenever he speaks Spanish, people are laughing. I always wish I could keep up.
I feel like I've always known his funny side. It's one of his main attributes that attracted me. But I also notice that in English-only settings, he's a little more quiet. He's not constantly cracking jokes.
We were leading a workshop at CCDA a couple years ago, and I made an off-handed comment about this topic. In response to a question, I mentioned that sometimes I feel Billy is a different person in English and in Spanish. Afterwords, a man came up to us. "Thank you for saying that," he told me. "My kids say that to me all the time. They think I'm a different person depending on the language. I thought it was just me!"
Recently, I came across this article in New Republic. They noted a commonality "that people who are actually fluent in two languages also feel their personality shifting as they switch between languages." Fascinating!
But it does leave the deep questions from Switched at Birth ruminating in my mind. Can you really know someone when you don't share their language?
Obviously, I'm counting on that answer being yes. But I also think I have to acknowledge there may be aspects of others we can only truly know when we learn their language. It doesn't mean we can't connect. And of course, there is an aspect to marriage that is lifelong discovery, so maybe language just happens to be a more obvious layer in our particular case.
What do you think? Have you seen personality shifts with language?
I'm linking up with the August 2014 Synchroblog: Connection. Check out other links below:
Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Doreen A Mannion – A bunny, a fawn and some geese walk into a bar …
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy