Velvet and Whips

French feels like velvet in my mouth.

L’anglais se sent comme le claquement d’un fouet.

I wasn’t raised with around a variety of languages; that is most Australians have completed at least a small class on German or French while in primary school, or a segment in High School if you were lucky enough to attend a well-funded school.

But I wasn’t lucky enough to experience that, besides a quick class on German, where most students dozed off and graduated lucky enough if they could remember how to count to 10 (I certainly can’t!).

But now I live in a city where you can hear Arabic and Hindi while you wait for a bus, and Mandarin and Cantonese while you head to the grocery store.

Tones and syntax are audibly fascinating to me; that culture is wrapped around words and words around culture. That you say “My name is Madison” in english, but “Je m’appelle Alice” in another (quite literally I call myself Alice).

I am also a synesthesiac.

I could never quite explain why some things has smells but not colours, or somethings have colours but not smells. Some have sensations or innate connotations I can’t explain.

Thursday is royal purple, Monday is munsell red, Wednesday is garnet brown, Tuesday and Fridays are light (asparagus) and dark green (artichoke). Saturday is Tyrian Purple.

Sunday has no colour but smells of barley and wheat, and maybe just a little Vegemite.

English feels like the crack of the whip.

Le Français se sent comme velours dans ma bouche.

Arabic smells like smoke; like burning logs in a fireplace and insists on an ashy grey. Mandarin tastes like sticky date pudding, all caramel and sickly sweet but conjures pomegranate reds. Hindi is sharp and clean and cool; the feeling of a freshly cleansed face and brings a duller red to mind. Cantonese is something savoury, and one day I’ll be able to find the words to explain it but I can express the warmth of the muted orange it brings with its tones.


Romanian tastes like plums in liquid form, something not quite a juice, something sharper on the tongue. It feels like pomegranates, and standing under a commercial air-conditioning unit.

Welsh feels like fur and thick cotton, something crunchy like almonds and people gathering.

Hebrew feels like a full stomach, like macadamia pancakes covered in maple syrup, like broad leaves and a smile.


French feels like a heavy cape on my shoulders, a high buttoned collar on my throat and tastes like metal in my mouth. French is like fresh paint on my fingertips (a brownish-red).

English is brown, and smells of rain, and feels like damp soil under my bare feet, squished between my toes. Like soil after rain, waiting for new seeds to take root.

English never felt like anything to me, until I picked up a French textbook and started to read.

There are so many languages in the world, and I don’t know which ones I’ll end up speaking, or how they’ll change my perceptions of language. English never felt like healthy, life-filled soil before French felt like wet paint.

But I have always loved English, and words and communication and stories.

And I have always loved the feeling of soft alive soil under my bare feet.

Maybe English had always felt this way, and I had never known anything else.


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