One Person’s Native Tongue is Another’s Babel

babel 300I couldn’t understand anything my father said. Was he speaking his native tongue, Icelandic? I asked him, and he said, “no,” but the fact that I understood everything he said after that makes me suspect he had been.

I don’t speak Icelandic. I did know my father had had Icelandic visitors the day before.

Dad didn’t notice he wasn’t speaking English. Icelandic is still natural for him. His speaking Icelandic to me sounded weird. What might happen if he speaks Icelandic to an aide at his assisted living community? Would they know to ask him to switch to a language they can understand?

We all have our own languages, and it’s not always as obvious as someone speaking Icelandic when you expect English. I tend to speak metaphorically. People who are more concrete in their thinking and speaking sometimes have little clue what I’m saying. It frustrates me to have to translate, but life gets easier the more I’ve learned to.

Sometimes my husband will ask, “Are you speaking metaphorically?”  When he does, I know to bring my focus and words down to earth. I know to get more concrete in my wording. Other times I read the baffled look on his face and shift.

What “languages” do you speak that others don’t understand? What words have meaning to you that are
“babel” to others? How can you know when to switch, and have you learned what languages you have in common?

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