Czech language has covered all segments of our lives like a thick fishnet. Only here do we understand how the language is, in fact, a miracle. Like breathing, it is present in our lives and we are unaware of its almost omnipotent nature. Liberating, enslaving, almost unperceivable….
Tucked up in our mother-tongue, my little tribe and I are, in this part of Prague, something like a soap-bubble in which we float daily travelling to particular points: from home to school, to the shop, to the park, to the post office, to the traffic-light, to dm….
Although our languages are alike, this statement is exactly where all closeness between the two languages ends. Like some distant relatives, this is all there is in terms of their alikeness. Serbian is plastic, hard and accented on the first syllable. Our language shapes our humour. It shapes our anger as well. And it enables us to distinguish ourselves nicely from those that we want to be distinguished from. It seems to me that the first step in my being distinguished from somebody else is the language I use.
In order to start speaking Czech, a school teacher told us it was necessary to change the direction of our blood stream. To me she immediately sounded like the God. In order to express myself in Czech well and truthfully, except for a good range of vocabulary and understanding grammar, it will really be necessary to change the direction my blood stream. When I start speaking Czech, it won’t be the same me any longer. I’ll change. I’ll change my timbre, and maybe I’ll change the things I’ll be wrapping into Czech language.
HazelnutGirl and Goldilocks have been acquiring the new world of words effortlessly and each of the two does it in her distinctive way. HazelnutGirl starts speaking this language with sheer practicality by picking new words and phrases like a squirrel and laying them in her consciousness with special care. She likes some words better than others, and she uses them more often. She repeats them without any sense or order, making in her ear and for her own self some sort of likeable noise which coaxes a wonderful smile out of her face each and every time. She acquires those difficult and complicated words with anguish as if forced to swallow a frog. In the end, she somehow rolls them over her tongue, at the same time rolling her eyes without fail. Contrary to her, Goldilocks silently and furtively girds on the new language like a new, secret weapon she could fire from any moment now.
Nobody actually realized to what extent Goldilocks had already got to know Czech language. At school the problem assumed the proportions of a gaping hole – to such a degree that we all ended up at the speech therapist, where we all discovered that she spoke the language best in the family. She only hides the ability as if it were a magic wand. Only from time to time, during peaceful afternoons when she is busy playing with her dolls, do I hear he speak Czech with them. My indiscreet look or a question transforms her magic into reality in which Serbian is a sacrosanct ruler of our communication. The magic disappears. The carriage is turned back into a pumpkin and we are again floating into our little bubble which always bounces on the first syllable.
Contrary to the two, BlueEyed perceives Czech as someone’s everything but witty obstruction of his regular daily activities – such as playing in the park with other children. “I’m telling them nicely, but they are not listening to me at all”, says BlueEyed in revolt every twenty minutes or so. However, he quickly forgets it inspired by a new game, but returns in twenty minutes, with equal resignation. Despite all my picturesque explanations and despite the existence of “our” and a foreign language, BlueEyed consistently talks with everyone in his excellent Serbian, with adequate addressing and all that.
Unlike the children, my BelovedHusband poses a walking proof of the theory that people in general communicate by using words only to a very small percent, drawing instead on all other available means of communication – ranging from the timbre, intonation, facial expression, gesticulation to body language and the like. Therefore, his Czech language self-confidently yields the fruits of successful communication although fully based on Serbian semantics, with 20 percent of Czech words painstakingly distributed in such a way that in every sentence you can find at least two of them. Others are Serbian, but pronounced with the Czech accent.
Contrary to them, Czech and I are observing each other from all angles. We are touching, sniffing, finger-flicking and plucking at each other. It is a nice language, suitable for petting. At first sight, rich and multi-coloured.
I am trying to imitate the sounds I hear clumsily. I am trying to understand. I am sharpening the pencils and writing letters which taken together as a pack often mean nothing.
I forget new words so easily that I ask myself if I have got old. I thought that this would be easier.
To me I look like poor Chinese people in poor quarters who take a child from their numerous families with them whenever they go to an important conversation – the child is in the role of an interpreter. In such situations I just speak in soft voice and awkwardly smile just waiting for the embarrassing situation to end.
I am looking at the blue eyes of a fairly good-looking teacher of my younger daughter and I am wondering if she can smell something unpleasant or her facial expression results from her endeavour to understand me. I’m trying to put forward a smile, but that smile, lacking any effect, simply slips off my face as if it were a wet background.
Then I promise myself that as of this moment I will put my back into learning the language more intensively and avidly, but days are wriggling and time is running out, which is why I do not progress as I promised myself I would.
My next meeting with the teacher gives me the collywobbles. I am looking at her in hope that her look will understand my look.
I still speak your language poorly, and trust me, I am working on it, I truly am, although I’m neither sure how necessary the language will prove to be in my future life, nor how long I will stay in your city and in your country. I truly want to learn your cherished language. I want to able to chirp gracefully with you like other mothers as soon as possible, not stand here with this moronic smile on my face as if I had just farted in a parent-teacher meeting instead of saying “Opakujte, prosim Vas” (Please repeat).
I am shining today in this icy Easter afternoon: I am imagining that particular striking sunny morning, when daring (but wintry) Prague sun strikes my bed linen through my Prague windows – at the same time, this fine, soft language burbles in my head as if I were stuck in an audio-fairy-tale from the previous century. And there spring up my diminutives, one after another, like magic tiny beans in window pots, my voice becomes airily resonant, and my thought follows the pattern. And there, instead of plain me, quietly comes into the view of my family members a new fairy-me. This gentle language comes into a flower from my fairy-lips effortlessly.
Am I just imagining it, or is this language truly so powerful? Or is it my ear, able to hear it all, the one which is in fact powerful?