I recently wrote that people in cross-cultural transition need to hear their native language spoken. However, is it enough just to hear the language no matter who speaks it? I’d like to amend that by adding that people need to hear their language spoken by another native speaker of their language, preferably someone from their own nationality. The reasoning for this is that certain nuances provide a sense of comfort and remind us of home. Also, speaking our native language with another native speaker allows us to let down our guard and relax.
In Russia I spoke English with my Russian friends and students but realized I was constantly grading my language. I also never used slang and spoke slower than usual so I could be understood. Consequently, I realized I always monitored my speech instead of letting it flow freely. When I returned to the United States, I visibly observed a relaxation in my speech that was both comfortable and comforting.
Not having to worry that you’ll be understood and being able to be yourself linguistically is something I always took advantage of. When I’m speaking with other Americans there is the bond of language that comes immediately and is instantly recognizable when you meet another person of your nationality, especially when you both live abroad. Elizabeth Gilbert made a note of this in her book Eat, Pray, Love when she commented that she was able to speak “American” instead of English due to the nuances of American English. While she referred to slang, there are other nuances that seem go go unnoticed until we no longer have them. These include accent and speed.
Which linguistic nuances provide you comfort when you speak your native language with another native speaker? Have you experienced this feeling? Has it made you appreciate your language more?