I call linguistic adjustment that period of about two days that I go through every single time I travel between Italy and England and that reduces my speaking abilities to the ones of a ten year old with no proclivity for foreign languages whatsoever.
To all of you who think that the bilingual brain adapts to the environment almost automatically, you are delusional! But be consoled, I was like you once, and I am still surprised by the amount of nonsense that I can come up with, both in English and Italian.
The thing is, at home nobody cringes if I put a little extra effort when speaking, as my main interlocutors are family members and friends; on the other side of Channel I’m forced to interact with figures such as bosses and estate agents. This requires different levels of mastery, as you need to convey friendly respect in the first case or, in the second one, to avoid insulting them with your entire bilingual repertoire. Because estate agents are evil, that is a truth universally acknowledged.
To give you some examples, symptoms of the linguistic adjustment are:
- Traducting literally from one language to the other;
- Not remembering part of the words you know, from both ways of speaking;
- Switching from one language to the other in the middle of a sentence, which might sound exotic in England, but definitely douch-y back home;
- Not finishing a sentence because your brain just
PS: for the record, I came back to London more than a week ago and I hope that such words as “proclivity”, “interlocutors” and “repertoire” prove that I have adjusted again.