Talk Expat to Me

ukrainian in the us, alisa kaiser, ukraine, usa, expat, expat blog
I get a lot of compliments on being multi lingual and I would lie if I say I didn't like them. The problem is - mastering different languages is not something I am proud of - I take it for granted.

I grew up in Ukraine, where the official language is Ukrainian. Living in the east of the country and being so geographically close to Russia, the only spoken language in my school, home, and all around was Russian. By the time I got to college and things started to get more 'official' - I had to transfer my thoughts and spoken words to Ukrainian. It pains me to say so - but it was a challenge. Ukrainian is one of the most beautiful languages I know. It is so melodic and it makes my heart grow imaginary wings. When I was flying back to Ukraine this past winter, my flight from Frankfurt to Kiev made me sob uncontrollably. You want to know why? Cause when we were close to landing, the announcements were transmitted in German, English, and Ukrainian. I could not hold the tears back when I heard "Пані та Панове! Вітаємо Вас на борту літака...". 
If you send me a message in Ukrainian - I will reply back in Ukrainian. What you wouldn't know is that it takes about 5 minutes for me to form a coherent reply. I am ashamed and paralyzed by the fear of being judged. But it is what it is and I am working on it.
Then there is Russian. As a lit major - you probably can guess the enormous appreciation that I have for the Russian Literature, its lengthy sentences and complicated lives of its sad heroes. But struggles to better myself in Ukrainian just led to my Russian being filled with Ukrainian words and phrases. And while my friends find my talking fun - I am hiding an insecure language child inside.

English came into my life so early on that I don't even remember studying it. It just came easy. I was exposed to native speakers and good teachers. I liked how English made me feel - like I am capable of mastering a language. And even though I am far from mastering anything really - I still like how easy it comes to me. I don't know if it is due to the numerous books I've been and am reading or my compulsive obsession with American TV - all I know is that it feels good.

And German...Let's just move on.

So forgive me when I make mistakes. In all the languages I speak. It might sound too complex but honestly, I sometimes feel like my language core is divided into numerous horcruxes (if you don't know what a 'horcrux' is - what are you doing here???). I guess that's a struggle for every expat - keeping an identity through all the tongues, keeping the 'you' inside alive and well.


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  3. You're writing is an enjoyable read. I confess, I had to look up the meaning of horcrux. Once I understood, I very much liked the way you used it in the context of your relationship to languages.


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