Is it just me? When someone I’m speaking with has an accent I immediately hear myself start to imitate it. I do this all the time. I remember being a kid and traveling in the southern states with my parents and before I knew it I had picked up the drawl. It happened when I spoke to tourists visiting Canada and now I find myself doing the same thing in Europe.
When speaking English with a Dutch or French speaking person, I inevitably start to pick up their accent. This is a serious problem because it leads the person I am speaking with to think: A) I am making fun of them B) I am mentally unbalanced C) Both.
My other big language problem in Europe is remembering which language to speak. Granted, I can only speak English and French fluently, but I’ve picked up words of other languages here and there in my travels. For example, while living in Amsterdam my husband and I visited Barcelona for a few days. By the end of the trip we had picked up a few essential words. When we got back to A’dam we kept asking for the check in Spanish.
Living outside of Brussels is especially tricky. If I get in a cab in Brussels, the driver is generally French. When I get out of the cab in my very Flemish town, I have to then switch mental gears to my limited Dutch. Invariably I screw it up.
So I tip my hat to the Europeans who have mastered the art of speaking many languages with grace. I will continue with my efforts to not be a spoiled English speaker and attempt to learn as much as I can.