When I first met P he had already been in the US for a few years, but he still had a lot of little language quirks. Sometimes he would pronounce things with the emPHAsis on the wrong syllABle or he would either forget to add (when needed) or add (when not needed) the articles “a” or “the” in sentences. Every now and then he might use an awkward word when explaining something or I would use expressions he had never heard of before and he would ask me what they meant. Now he uses these expressions himself–he told me the other day, “yeah, I guess you need to take her with a grain of salt” when talking about a friend of a friend.
I used to find these little language quirks very endearing, even though I’d often explain or correct. However now, after more than 6 years, I realize that many of these old quirks have faded as P’s time in the US has grown. Every now and then he will come up with something odd out of the blue… or pronounce something a bit different, but not anywhere near as often as he used to.
Yet there is one language quirk he still has that I don’t think will ever fade…
When he has fallen asleep and wakes up suddenly he asks questions in Nepali and doesn’t seem to realize it. It’s usually kati baje? Or kati bajyo? – what time is it?—among other things. I’ve grown accustom to them, and understand enough that I can answer his questions before he closes his eyes and falls back asleep, but I do find this little quirk cute. If P were one to talk in his sleep (which he isn’t) I’m sure his conversation would also be in Nepali.
I was reminded of it yesterday afternoon. We were both having a lazy Sunday… I was watching a movie on my laptop and P had dosed off while reading some articles for school. He had to meet up with some people for an intramural football game at a specific time, so he kept waking up suddenly, his eyes all red and glazed over, and he would mumble “kati bajyo?” before falling back asleep, satisfied that he had enough time to keep snoozing.
I remember back when we first met P said something about how “maybe someday I could forget English, but I’ll never ever forget Nepali.” The mother tongue is a beautiful and powerful thing and it effects how your brain is hardwired, and that’s why if (and when) we have children some day we are determined to raise them speaking both of our mother tongues.
Kati bajyo? oh geez, I better get back to work.