Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Yesterday, I had a sudden realization.
You know, one of those moments when an idea that has been true but somehow invisible to you all along comes to light, and you can’t unsee it?
I do not have a “native” language anymore.
First, there was Italian
I was born in Italy, and for the first 14 years of my life, that’s the only language I spoke.
Like everyone else in middle school, I studied a foreign tongue, French in my case, but I didn’t make much progress at that age like most people. Add into the mix two summers where I spent one month in the french part of Switzerland with my parents, and I could make sense of written French, not much more.
That’s when I still had a mother tongue, Italian.
Then French took over.
I was 14 when I moved to France with my parents.
The first year was quite intense. A deep dive, if you will, as I resumed school in a foreign language in a town where no one I knew besides my parents spoke Italian. I learned, eventually. My French improved year after year, and I reached a point where I was more comfortable speaking it than Italian.
After all, I spent 28 years in French-speaking countries.
Meanwhile, English snook up on me.
English, like French years prior, didn’t stick in school.
I started working online, building websites, hiring people from India to Thailand, to South America, doing business with American companies, and finally joining one 11 years ago. I went from using English a few hours per day to making it the primary language I speak, read, and write each day.
To this day, I have more than 32,000 hours of English practice.
I don’t complain. I enjoy speaking each of these three languages.
But I had this realization that neither feels like my “native” one anymore.