Yesterday I was talking on the phone to a friend called Christophe, who is French and lives with his partner in Barcelona. We were discussing plans for going to the Pyrenees this weekend.
We met on a Catalan course last year, but, curiously, he also speaks Norwegian from having learnt it years ago. We have a habit of speaking sometimes in Catalan, and sometimes in Norwegian, depending on which we feel most like practising at the time.
This time it wasn’t clear at first which language we were going to use, but I was feeling tired and a little stressed and because of this I asked him if we could speak in Catalan.
Now, this seems a bit strange… In Norwegian I am a native speaker and he has a more-or-less intermediate level (but lacking practice). In Catalan I am on the low- and he is on the high end of intermediate. Being tired and stressed, I wanted to be sure that I was in control of the conversation. So, logically I should I have been more comfortable speaking in Norwegian, shouldn’t I?
I think I felt that speaking the language where my level was higher than his, I would say something that he would not understand correctly, without me noticing; whereas speaking in the language where my level was lower than his, any misunderstanding would be on my part, and I would therefore be able to get clarification.
Speaking in the language where I was at a disadvantage meant, therefore, that I was more in control!
(Of course we could just have spoken in English, where I suppose we are both equally fluent, but what would be the fun in that?)