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Too many tongues

July 10, 2014

I am in Kabul for the second time in my life. As a way to prepare, I tried to brush up some of the Tajik, or Dari, I learned several years ago, along with my Arabic. This proved more difficult than I anticipated. When at loss for a word, instead of English popping out, out comes Malagasy. Or French, or most obnoxiously of all, nothing, as I search through the multiple languages filed in my brain for the right version of the right root in the right tense.

When I would get frustrated in Madagascar, I sometimes would divert to English- here I keep willing people to understand Malagasy- though I was there for less than a year the sing-song Antakarana has stuck my ear like a delicious pop song. Sometimes I want to call my counterpart just to chat and hear the words in her voice again.

But this does not so much good for me here in Kabul. The one thing I have been doing that helps is reciting over and over the few phrases I do know, to try and supplant this pesky Malagasy with the language I really need at the moment: Dari. I don’t know if this is a common problem with linguists, this blending, or rigidly fixed hierarchy of languages. I hope to shed some light on this effect in the 2 short weeks I am here. In the meantime, maztoa miantra! (study hard!)

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