Language. I love it. I can only speak two of them, English and Spanish, but even those I can't speak that well. And they've combined LOVE and LANGUAGE in the same ad -- be still my heart. Thanks to my French-loving friend Virginia, (who is getting married in almost exactly one month!!) I know the meaning of some French phrases. For example,“L’amour c’est être stupide ensemble” -- This means "Love is being stupid together."
I remember coming back to the States after seven months in Argentina in 2007. My dad picked me up at the airport in Dallas and we went to our favorite late night, or in this case, early morning joint. You know it -- Cafe Brazil! Will wonders never cease. Many a late night coffee has been had there (ya, Amanda.) Well, cafe Brazil is not actually run by Brazilians, but by Latinos. Mind you, after seven months in the glory of Buenos Aires, I came back to the States relatively fluent. It was maybe the happiest I've ever been in my life -- soley because of that fact. I was thinking in Spanish!
To be able to communicate is a real and amazing thing. To be able to communicate in another language is incredibly freeing and opens the door to a whole new world.
While sitting at the table with my dad, I actually had to force myself to speak English with the waiter instead of Spanish. I know that sounds strange -- he is Spanish, so why not speak to him in his native tongue? But it's like it would have been rude to do that back in Texas. I can't quite explain it, but it's like you don't want him to think you are trying to be too personal with him, or act like you can identify with him more than the other guy over at table 2 because you can speak his language.
But why the heck not? Why not identify with him? I mean, I said I came back relatively fluent, not totally fluent; I probably would have said something not quite right anyway. He probably would have laughed at me and gone to tell his other waiter friends that some chica over there has a terrible accent. (Little would he know, however, that the Argentinian Spanish accent is the most beautiful in the world.) But the point is, why do we fear to identify with someone from a different culture? Language is a gift of connection with others. If you can speak, you can connect. If you can connect, you can love. If you can love, you have the world. So don't be afraid to open your mouth.
Here's an example -- In New York a few weeks ago, I ran into a French couple on the street. They asked me, in French, if I had just run the marathon. (They saw my spandex and probably how sweaty I was from trying to run after Amanda, my friend who really did run the marathon -- and at lightning speed.) I laughed, was flattered, said no, and then asked them if they were from France. Oui! I then decided to lay on them my one French line that I repeat all the time. It's from Kate Chopin's The Awakening, and of course it has to do with love. And of course I said it not exactly in the right way, and of course I got very puzzled looks. So I smiled, they smiled, we all were happy, I was about to ask them if they owned a French chateau that they wouldn't mind my crashing at come early April, thought twice about it, and bid them a fond farewell. It was a jolly exchange. We connected in some way. Me, the crazy American girl; them, the chic older French couple. I'm glad I tried to talk to them. They probably forgot me quite quickly, but I will always remember them. And wish that I spoke French.
Language, words, people. Life.