In A Language I Don’t Know

I’ve never understood why so many Americans get upset when people don’t speak English…I love when students speak Spanish around campus, or Mandarin, or one of the million Indian languages that exist. It’s comforting.

I think it serves as a good reminder that I am not the center of the Universe, that people exist in other capacities besides the ones I perceive them in. And it’s nice, sometimes, to be unaware of what’s going on. To relinquish control a little.

When I was in India, I only understood about 10% of what was happening at any given time. People would speak their native language at me (which I always thought was hilarious, because – let’s be honest – my grasp of English is already ridiculous) and I’d just sort of nod along, confused but aware that whatever happened would probably be fine. It’s a wonder I didn’t end up married to one of the men I met on the street. Or maybe I did and just didn’t notice.

The point is, sometimes it’s nice to feel a little out of your depth, because usually you find a way to deal with that challenge in a productive way. You learn to gesture at things and mime actions in order to get people to understand you. You end up laughing a lot because you’re being an idiot, miming “the painting of the Mona Lisa” at a stranger on the street, and the strange little connections you make with people over things like that can be the most beautiful ones. Some of my favorite encounters in Bangalore involved people bobbling their heads, laughing at me, and giggling “no no no” as I attempted to figure out how to order food or get directions to a temple. I was blessed in one of those temples by the tiniest little man who, as I knelt in front of him, my forehead on the cold stone floor, touched my head so lightly and spoke words containing such meaning and power that they transcended language and traveled directly to my soul. The profundity of that moment will never diminish in my memory.

I miss that. I miss not understanding but somehow still knowing. I don’t like constant English, and I’m almost definitely in the minority on that one, but I really hated coming back to the States and not hearing Kannada everywhere I went. It made me feel lonely. Too connected.

I made this playlist today because it’s a dark, quiet day and it reminded of how little I understand the world. But that doesn’t feel discouraging…it feels so wonderfully exhilarating – so thrilling – that I don’t know anything, because it means I get to discover so many things. There is so much to learn.

I’m really stoked on life today, and it may or may not have something to do with the fact that I’m over-caffeinated and literally bouncing up and down in a coffee shop while working on homework, but I think I’d feel this way with or without that half a latte (you read that right: half a latte. My body is an idiot and won’t let me drink adult drinks without freaking out).

Humans are really beautiful creatures sometimes. It takes some time, but ultimately, we end up united. And that’s the best way to end this post: with a really cheesy statement about hope.

4 thoughts on “In A Language I Don’t Know

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  1. You so need to visit Europe. If I drive 2 hours in any direction, I already get a different language, a different culture, food, buildings… It’s actually quite amazing. Rent a car and within a week you can see the Eiffel tower and hear French, enjoy British breakfast, walk through a German forest, climb the Alps, see Rome, have Italian coffee… :)

  2. I just wish more people think like you do. People here is the us are always taking about diversity but that’s all they do talk about it. When they see a lots person who ask them for direction in an accent they can’t tolerate them and tell them to speak English.They hate the fact that they don’;t get what immigrant say when they talk among them.What they seems to forget is that you don’t have to get diversity to like it. Nice post :)

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