For more than a quarter of a century, I spoke French almost exclusively — all day long with all my students at the college (I taught by immersion & used only French), then back home with my kids, with whom I’d never used English. With no time to go out and be with friends (being a mostly-single parent, professor, business owner, etc), my life happened only in French, all day, every day. For years.
And then my kids grew up and moved away, and I retired. Suddenly, the few interactions I had each day — the handyman, the bagger at the supermarket, the clerk in the Post Office — were in English.
And now there’s Covid, and I have practically no interactions at all. In any language.
Culture shock. Like when you move to another country and everything’s suddenly different — including how you express yourself. It just doesn’t feel right anymore.
Covid has certainly produced its own type of culture shock. Habits that have always been firmly, societally ingrained have become foreign. It no longer feels right to shake someone’s hand. To hug anyone. To speak face to face, unmasked — especially in English.
They say that retirement can be one of the biggest stressors in an adult’s life. One of the biggest changes. Maybe. I’m sure that a pandemic ranks right up there, too — along with changing which language you use with your kids. Your friends. Your students.
Maybe someday they’ll learn that, aside from the well-documented benefits to the brain, being multi-lingual makes you more able to handle the unknowns of a pandemic with aplomb. I hope so. That would be a nice gift to have given my kids.