My wife is constantly telling me that she needs to improve her Estonian, that she feels she has lost native-Estonian idiomaticity in her writing in Estonian. She's a scientist and has often to write posters, papers and give presentations. Now she is starting to give lecturers to undergrads. We have lived together for over four years and she has spoken English to me nearly every day for over 7. Her English has remarkedly improved during that time. It was excellent before but the last few years have given it that extra polish, which combined with an Irish-ish accent fools many Irish people into asking 'Where is it in Ireland that you are from?'
But her Estonian...her chemistry mentors have commented that her written technical Estonian is too Englishy. Her mother comments that she does not read enough in Estonian. A not unusual present is a big thick book in puhas eesti keel *.
I have written before on the topic of my native language and whether I felt/ thought I had one. The truth of the matter really is though that I am having difficulty writing in a style that would be considered native. After 4 years of teaching and proofreading the work of others I have become influenced by Estonianized English - over and over again seeing the same mistakes (a hearing them too in the speech of others) has normalized them. I used to be able to express complex concepts in an equally complex way. Now I find myself writing bland short sentences that over-utilise basic vocabulary. Maybe it is also a consequence of writing for a scientific/ academic audience who speaks English as a foreign language - I was constantly being told by editors that my sentences were too long and, therefore, confusing.
In an admission of shame, just a couple of weeks I found, to my horror, producing buyed as the past simple of buy in I can't remember where I buyed it. A while back I told my wife Don't hang up it in response to her hanging up some clothes on a door.
I feel like my English is threadbare and tired, shabby and sad like an flag hung out for far too long, its ends unravelling.
Why genki as the title of this post? Such was the answer recently to wife asking 'How'r things?' Seriously? My wife is prone to peppering her speech with Japanese, particularly in the evening when she is making vegan sushi or okonomiyaki whilst watching anime. I have used Japanese in the past in a joke-y way, a na ni?! here and an ohaiyou there (in the afternoon when it's not appropriate) but it has never been automatic and never accompanied with a serious tone of voice. What surprised me was that it just slipped out without me consciously wanting it to do so.
Maybe I need to read more quality English, not just the professional blogging that qualifies as journalism these days - real, quality English. A novel, a classic. I am trying to remember the last book I loved and read from cover to cover, not just skipped in and out in the first chapter, my thoughts stolen away to the book of Japanese morphosyntax on my nightstand or Estonian textbook on my desk (presently the living room/ kitchen table as the spare room is a mess). They say the key to being a decent riter is to be an avid wreader. Perhaps it's time to get my nose into a good book.
* 'pure Estonian' (evidently (?) used here ironically)