So I now have a huge stack of books threatening to topple onto my poor little laptop and crush it under their weight. All about translation, of course. As if I'm going to be able (through osmosis, maybe?) to absorb all their relevant content and produce an elegantly argued thesis clearly well-grounded in the current literature of my field. In a word, gah.
What's fun though is coming across information that I have absolutely no use for but that is fascinating anyway. I love the physicality of language, or, put more boringly, the way we use the identical vocal apparatus to produce such a wide variety of language sounds. The most vivid example I remember is watching my mother on the phone once (before New York, so I would have been about 12) when she was conducting two simultaneous conversations, one with my father on the official line and the other with two friends on the other phone. It was fascinating to see her face literally rearrange itself while she switched from Turkish (dad) to French to Urdu/English. She speaks each with its 'proper' accent so I expect the realignment was even more exaggerated than it would have been if she'd kept the same accent. (But how do you learn a language without learning the accent or at least something like it? Isn't it integral to understanding and picking up speech?) The way her cheeks and mouth were placed almost seemed to shift and her entire expression, tone, and volume would change. I keep thinking of the term 'acrobatics' and I suppose, in a sense, it's an apt description.
The other thing, which is related in a way to the first, is the way one's attitude changes in different languages. I speak French with a lower tone, with many more 'throat-clearers' (non, fin, tu vois, et bien, quoi, etc.) than I do English. I also speak it slightly slower than English or Urdu, probably because I go so long between conversations, but also because I tend to trip myself up when I speak too fast in any language and French is harder to disentangle. Technical difficulties aside, my attitude is also more relaxed in French--even my gestures which, in Urdu, can get almost frantic, are larger and smoother. The emotional connection with French actually made itself felt when my mother-in-law died and I found that while functioning in Urdu and even English was a massive effort--I couldn't remember the simplest of words at times and spent much of my time gesturing and nodding--my French revived and supplanted both as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be babbling away in French during funeral preparations in Pakistan. I think it may be that because I spoke to my mother in French as a child--she was particularly pleased by how quickly I picked it up and it's been 'our' language ever since I can remember--I associate a cetain amount of emotional stability with the language. It's what I speak when I want to talk to just her, even though my father is familiar with it and my brother has a fair command of it too. In fact, when we're in an 'us vs. them' type of situation, Ilhan and I will usually fall into it too.
My Urdu has always been somewhat careful, but became far more fluent when I moved to Lahore for college and then to Islamabad. It's already slipping away again though, to the point where Ameel gets a good laugh out my failed attempts to speak it exclusively--we're more diglossic than bilingual in that sense. He ups the ante by responding in Punjabi, which is grossly unfair because it's not a language I claim to speak, regardless of how well I understand it. I speak Urdu very fast though--faster than English--and gesticulate quite a lot (things have been known to fly off the table). I guess I'm never really sure when it's going to run out. I was quite happy to learn to cuss well in it though, since the ability to lose your temper in a language is one good way to measure your grasp of it. But I'll still revert to English when I'm paticularly angry. It's very clearly North American for just being rude or loud or both and my trusty RP for sarcasm and being generally poisonous. So far, luckily, I have not had to do both simultaneously.