How to be an undercover language nerd over Christmas

Christmas is coming up and many of us are having a week off from school, studies, work or internships. And as much as the holidays are meant to be a relaxing time, some of us are deeply concerned. The hesitation is about the one-, or even two-week monolingual vacuum we are about to be part of (no, it’s not about the Mayan prophecy on the upcoming Armageddon). Those fortunate ones with bilingual families are envied by thousands of nerds trapped in monolingual circumstances. Communicating in just one language seems impossible and nerve wrecking? It simply won’t work out while staying sane at the same time. That’s why I have come up with some guidelines or tips on how and why to sneak a second language into typical Christmassy incidents.

When there are only mother tongue speakers around it might seem a bit awkward to suddenly switch into another language, when the obvious choice would be to speak the mother tongue you have in common. This is a very essential setback of course. But don’t worry! There are ways to get around this. After doing some qualitative research at home and at the office, I can assure you that throwing in some phrases in unexpected languages usually work out fine. So whenever you ask someone to pass the gravy or the marzipan, say “kiitos!”, and you will see that it goes by hardly observable. This will give you just enough adrenalin to make it through the rest of the dinner. Another tip is to suggest watching animated movies in a foreign language, and claim that you think it’s hilarious to listen to the Ice Age characters in Spanish. It does help to giggle and/or laugh out loud once in a while to maintain believability. A very reasonable and rather invisible trick is of course to read something in a foreign language over Christmas. You can keep a book next to your bed and read before going to sleep and when waking up. In this way you will have a pleasant start and end to the day. The last tip for how to stay sane is more of a crisis plan for those of you who failed on the guidelines above. Simply change the language settings on all technical devices in the house (TV, PC, Phones, Game Boys, microwave, mp3-player etc.), and blame it on the younger children or grandparents with lacking technical skills. This is a foolproof one. It helps avoiding aggressive behavior, while it’s entertaining at the same time.

As I’m sure you already know, it’s important to stay creative in a situation like this. It’s favorable to stay gathered and stable at least until the last days of the holidays, and I hope these tips come in handy. Stay sane and good luck on maintaining a multilingual Christmas.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone! (And if you happen to have another undercover nerd tip, please share with us!)


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