Have you ever gotten really excited by something and felt the incredible, instinctual impulse to scream something like “Yay!”, “Hell yeah!”, or “Sweet!” and then realized that you’re in the context of another language and saying that would sound incredibly foreign and doesn’t really fit? How often does this happen to foreign people whose mother tongue is not English, who come to the United States? You don’t hear Germans getting really excited and shouting, “Prima!“, do you?
Today, I wanted to shout “Yay!” in Korean but then realized that I didn’t know how. Talk about nothing more stifling than being super excited and not remember how to express it in the context of the language in which the whole exciting conversation happened! So, I just said, “Yay” and then asked. Turns out it’s 아싸아~! (Assah!). Of course! Duh! I knew that one, right? I mean, I’ve said it before, I’ve used it before, I’ve heard it a lot before. For some reason in that moment it just didn’t come to me. Is that because such exclamations come from some deeper place in our linguistic identity? Is it just as hard to exclaim your excitement spontaneously in a foreign language as it is to count large sums and calculate quickly? Will that always be something that will come to the speaker just a bit too slowly?