Not My English

Kids are amazing creatures. My eldest son says such interesting things. One day, he & his mother were shopping & he spotted a package which he brought to her attention. He pointed out the writing on the package and said, “that’s Japanese”. He was right, and my wife was kind of speechless. I mean, he is 5 years old & we haven’t taught him any other languages than English. He does watch some Pokémon so, I assume that’s where he figured it out. Then he told his mother we couldn’t read the Japanese on the package because “it’s not our Spanish”. He watched a good bit of Dora the Explorer also. So funny.

This got me to thinking about language, and about different languages. How we learn different languages, and ultimately, how we communicate. Now, dragons, I need to be honest. I don’t speak any language other than English. I took a class in Russian for a few weeks & learned how to say hello, although, the time I tried to say it to some Russian friends they just looked at me confused. I also learned some Spanish for a trip to Mexico, but these were just Spanish for “Where is the bathroom?” (super important) & “I don’t speak Spanish”.

It was the trip to Mexico which is most memorable, especially when I think about language & communication. I was part of an acting group who were doing street performances. After one of the performances, a young woman came up to me & started talking. This was my chance to use the Spanish I had learned. I looked at her & said, “No hablo Espanol”. She didn’t seem to care. She just looked at me & kept speaking. Maybe, I said it wrong. So I repeated “No hablo Espanol!”, but to no avail, as she just paused, looked a bit confused, and kept talking to me. This went on for a bit. I was looking around for an interpreter for some help. Really, it’s a wonder she didn’t give up trying to talk to me, but she was intent to communicate with me. Then, after enough time had passed that I’m embarrassed to even think about, I heard something come out of her mouth that sounded familiar. She was saying, “But I’m speaking to you in English!”

What? Sure enough, she was speaking English, and not broken English either. She was speaking really perfect English, maybe even better than I could. However, we were in Mexico. She was Mexican. And I had convinced myself there was no way to communicate with anyone I met on the trip. I heard Spanish when she spoke. I didn’t hear English. I heard Spanish until I broke my preconceived perspective. When I did, I was able to listen to what she had to say.

How many times do we convince ourselves something is impossible, or too hard, or <insert excuse here>? How many times do we sabotage ourselves & our success because we doggedly hold on to our paradigm against all rational? When will we learn to take a step back, evaluate then use our amazing power within to go where we want to go?

Don’t cheat yourself by insisting, “that’s not my English” when it can be – if you choose it.

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