Language creates, dissolves differences
October 11, 2007
In high school Spanish class we were taught how to conjugate verbs.
Because we live in America and will generally be confronted with Mexicans rather than Spaniards, we dismissed the vosotros part from our vocabulary, rendering it useless.
Although I have not used my Spanish tongue in years, I have found that no bit of language is useless.
A roommate of mine in the six-bed hostel room (much like a dorm room for River Falls’ temporary housing) is from Spain. The nights in the hostel sound like a crowd of grown people mumbling the most basic English words to each other. Occasionally there is the sound of long, drawn-out pronunciations for better understanding.
The communication breakdown is about as exciting as the times that are shared later with my fellow travelers. The fact that the six of us, a Mexican, a Spaniard, an Italian, a German, a Frenchman and me, the American, could all decide to go out for drinks together is amazing. We are all lost in translation, but since we are all lost together, we are not lost at all.
The beauty that lies behind relationships is that of a certain connection.
One may loathe another who is across town on a rival team. But, once the borders are expanded to broaden your identity, a bond may be conceived.
Much to my surprise, an undeniable bond was formed between the Mexican boy and me. We are not Europeans. We have similar tastes in music.
Cheers! To the Americas!
I feel for those who are enrolled in the Semester Abroad: Europe program staying in non-English speaking countries, or to the students at River Falls that struggle in class everyday to understand what the professor attempts to teach them. Living in London, I receive some British experience, but more of a global one.
Yes, it is important for Americans to learn more languages. Yes, it is important to broaden your horizons within the world of linguistics.
More important than the idea of being an educated adult is to live with that open mind—an open mind that is ready to try at new things at any given moment.
Linguistics has never been my forte. Now, it is a game. I will teach about the “theres,” and in return they will teach me about the weather.
The new language game has little to do with the actual learning aspect but more about the sharing of information from one foreigner to the next.
I wish that I had learned Tagalog, Spanish, French and Italian when I was a wee one.
For many of us, it is hard to imagine English not being our first language. The whole world wants to learn the language of the countries that rule the world.
Over breakfast I help the Frenchman read the tabloids. “Gig” and “booze” are words that are probably necessary for him to know.
The language game is exciting and hilarious but mostly tiring. The minute I hear American English spoken, the surprising relief strikes me, and my speech is comfortably at ease.
-Teresa is a journalism major and a geography minor. She is enrolled in the Semester Abroad: Europe program and is currently doing research on the River Thames in London. Later in the semester she will be independently backpacking across Europe.
Teresa Aviles is a student at UW-River Falls.