I guess the thing about my inner dialogue is I feel I’m the same person I was at five years old. Before then, I have a few memories that are more like snapshots, moments of happiness or fear. At five, I was talking to myself in the same tone of voice I have now, confirming what I like, urging myself to try something out, emphasizing when I should remember something. My conscious awareness has grown in understanding, my vocabulary has expanded, but my inner voice sounds the same.
Except that I think now that maybe there are two inner voices. If I really listen, my actual five year old voice is much fainter, much more raw than my daily inner voice. Isn’t that interesting? When I focus, yes, there are two. The supervising voice, the one that says when it’s time for bed or time to go to work, that grown up voice is more “front of house”, distracting me from the other, which doesn’t have the vocabulary. In fact, I think that other voice may not have words. An impulse, a feeling.
I go back to that time I was walking to school with the next door neighbour and I convinced her that we should speak French on the way so that no one would be able to comprehend our conversation. I didn’t know anyone who spoke French nor, I think, did she. My grandparents spoke Ukrainian and my chum was from a Polish background so those languages didn’t qualify.
I clearly remember speaking gibberish with her, gesticulating and modulating the tone of my voice, confident she understood whatever I was pointing out. For a short while I felt immune to outsiders and yes, superior. I don’t know how I learned that French exists. Perhaps it was one of the things that made school exciting. I clearly didn’t understand what language was. French sounded more foreign, more exciting than Ukrainian to my uncomprehending ears. For those moments walking to school, I really believed that if a French person walked by they would understand me. I really believed that by making appropriate sounds my words were transformed into invisible ink, secret and comprehensible only to the initiated.
At five years old, then, I already had a secret life that I wanted to protect from some and share with others. Much later, when I learned what speaking and understanding a language meant, I would squirm when I remembered this walk to school. How embarrassing if a French-speaker really had walked by. How ridiculous a thing to do, in public, no less.
But that memory remains vivid and my inner, inner voice reminds me that 50 years later, I still have a secret life I want to protect from some and share with others.
#secrets #language #inner voice #childhood #French #Ukrainian