Recently I placed an order in a shop, and the owner wanted my mobile number so that she could call me when the order came in.
I have had the same mobile number for nearly eight years. It’s burned into my brain. But I can never repeat it in Portuguese. It always happens the same way: I get five numbers into it and then lose track of where I was. Under pressure, with the clerk’s pen poised and an expectant look directed my way, I flounder back and forth in my mind, pulling up the number in English and mentally translating, then losing my place again halfway there.
Clearly, our brains (or my brain) handle the memory and translation of numbers differently from that of words. I have no problem rattling off Portuguese numbers or translating English numbers into Portuguese. But remembering a string of nine numbers in Portuguese rather than English? It just doesn’t happen. Translating it on the fly? Nope. There’s something in the combined process of numeric memory recall plus translation that puts a wrench in the works.
One of these days, I’m going to remember to print out a card with my damn number on it and stick it in my wallet. So long as the numbers are written down, I’m golden.
In the meantime, I keep finding this song running through my head.