Veit's Blog

Bourbon Country


This post is on my ability to communicate in English. Oddly enough, I felt like my writing was not quite on point for the entirety of its conception. Enthralled by the irony, I decided to leave it like that. I blame Woodford Reserve.

I was in the US for a little under two weeks. While that's admittedly not a very long time—thanks to the Recurse Center not even the longest time this year—, it's definitely long enough to get pensive. The first thing I (re-)learned at the border: my English isn't great.

For those of you who have heard me speak or read my writing, it might not be apparent. But for me it is. It's pretty good under normal circumstances, if I do say so myself, but whenever I get stressed it suddenly falls apart. Standing in line at the TSA my hearing suddenly gets bad, my voice weak, and my throat won't listen to me anymore.

Of course that's partly due to the tactics employed by the border officers, to which I–as a naturally anxious person–do not react well. They grill you out of pure calculation. I know it and, still, it never fails to get to me. My girlfriend, with whom I traveled this time, went through that process for the first time herself. She too was astounded by how uncomfortable the TSA questioning made her. They even asked her why she didn't continue her studies in the US instead of moving to Europe, as if that somehow related to her right to visit her parents.

It wasn't my first time at the TSA, though, and my English was generally not at its best for the first three days of the trip, so I refuse to place the blame on my experience at the border. I finnaly grasped why my language learning is sometimes not as linear as I would like: linguistic laziness. I simply don't have to try very hard. That's as true in my own language as in any other. I don't stretch unless there is something I want to reach, and, most of the time, what I want to reach is just being understood. Naturally, I refuse to admit that most of the time, so I get anxious when the right words don't come to me. But this time, I practically felt something inside me shrug and go “nah, we're good”, and simply stop trying.

I don't know whether I'm comfortable with this beahvior. I don't even know if I'm right in this assertion. Maybe my English isn't that good after all; but even saying that feels like an insult to anyone who has ever complimented my speaking and meant it. And, not unlike my attitude towards programming, even when I say that I don't think I'm that great, something immediately protests: I know better. And so I will go back to my old modus operandi: if there's no problem with my performance in any field—in this case English—I will refrain from commenting on my ability. And of course Bourbon always helps.