A language hodgepodge in Ivalo

Just using the word “hodgepodge ” can maybe tell you how confused I am with languages at the moment. I have never used that word before, and to be totally honest I just checked in the dictionary what word could be used in English for the Finnish word “sekamelska” :D.

When I was working in France I used French as my daily language at work, at school, at home… And when I was speaking Finnish with my friends or family every few months, I felt speaking it strangely and I was looking for words. And I used English only occasionally at work or with some foreign friends. Actually it was only in Brazil last spring that I started to use English daily, in all circumstances… And when I came to Finland and met new foreigners living here, I kept on speaking English, and Finnish.

Now, I work in Ivalo, in a tiny village in very northern Finland, where we could imagine people speak only Finnish! Well,yes, I use Finnish at work with my Finnish workmates, but also English with a Spanish colleague and some clients and French with my flatmates and clients…!  I speak those three languages so much during the day that sometimes I don’t know which one to use with who… I’m so used to talk in French with the clients that sometimes I don’t realize I’m talking in French for some Finnish or Dutch clients! Only when I see them looking at me very strangely I realize I choose the wrong language…. Or sometimes I say “pardon” for my Finnish colleagues instead of “anteeksi”.

Well, these are very little accidents and mistakes which doesn’t bother anybody else than me… I think so.

Sometimes not having only one common language with workmates can be a little complicated, as we have noticed with my Spanish work-mate. She doesn’t speak and understand a lot of Finnish so she misses some details and information constantly during her work days. I can understand that’s very frustrating so I try to translate her us much as possible during the day… Which make me to mix the languages even more!

I have noticed my French is being worst that it was when I was living in France. Now when I talk in French, sometimes I hear my accent very strongly and many times I’m looking for words that I used to use all the time! I also realize I do much more mistakes, especially on genders! Okay, my friends in France would probably say that I already did those feminine and masculine mistakes constantly…. (a very common mistake for Finnish people, as in Finnish language we don’t have genders). It’s frustrating. But it’s alright, I still do speak French as my second language and I have nice clients saying that I have no accent when I speak French (lovely French people always being so polite;-))!

Yesterday I was in Helsinki for an English test which I had to pass because I’m applying for an international master program next year….One of the eligibility criteria is to be able to prove my English level. So, I passed the exam at Pte Pearson Academy, and went from Ivalo to Helsinki only for that.

I have to say I was stressed because I hadn’t prepared for that test almost at all. I was actually thinking “it’s okay, I know enough English and it’s only to check my level” but at the same time being mixing all languages so much last months made me very uncomfortable about the test. And after the 3 hours I spent in the exam I didn’t know at all how to feel… If it went okay or not.

So it was a big relief to get an email today with my score which was even 2 points more than needed for the university! At least using 3 languages every day haven’t affected me too negatively ;-).



3 thoughts on “A language hodgepodge in Ivalo

  1. I know what you mean! When I was living in France, I used French 24/7, which meant that I would sometimes speak to my English-only family in French. Or I would write them an email in English but using French grammar structures. Very odd. Now I live in Italy and I often forget very basic words but so do my colleagues sometimes. Knowing more than one language can be both a blessing and a curse!

    • Yes, that grammar thing is very true also! I used French structures always, when I wrote in Finnish or in English :D. I know that I’m lucky to be able to speak many languages but sometimes I also feel not be able to talk just one language correctly:D!

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