Foreign language immersion

A view of Princes Street, taken from North Bridge.

“That’s so weird!” I mused, observing my surroundings on Princes Street, a popular tourist destination in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.

Exactly what I thought was weird, I can’t recall through my still-jet-lagged haze. Perhaps it was the statue of a lion covered in pennies (or pence as they’re called here), or the fact that even in a foreign country, there are Subway restaurants so close together it puts the redundancy of the Bear’s Lair Food Court franchise to shame. What I do remember, however, is the 14-year-old boy passing by, who quickly made eye contact with me and repeated in his best, high-pitched, girly American accent, “That’s sooo weird!!”

What? In a town with a student population roughly the same as Berkeley’s, where nearly all the foreign students are American, I hardly expected to stick out like a sore thumb, particularly in a country that speaks my language.

That’s where I went wrong in planning for my year studying at the University of Edinburgh — British people actually don’t speak my language.

Particuarly in Scotland, I’ve had to ask people to repeat themselves more often than my hearing-impaired grandfather would have.

One flatmate has taken to speaking with me as she would someone who has learned English as a second language. The most generous adjustment they’ve made to help me make the switch from American to Scottish English, however, is my “pocket dictionary.”

We keep a piece of notebook paper on the kitchen table, and each time my flatmates use a Scottish slang term, we record it, so I know what they’re talking about next time around.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
-If you see two people “scheming” at a pub or party, it means they’re probably about to get it on.
-A “jakey” is a junkie, and a more colorful way to describe their mental state is “away with the fairies.”
-If someone calls you a “boaby,” you’re being a dick. If only I had known this for the pre-pubescent boy who mocked my accent.


Image Source: Alex Matthews, Daily Cal