When language is a barrier

By Mile Castro

As a native Spanish speaker, I thought I could communicate easily with anyone who speaks the same as me at least, but the reality is language is more than common words.

People build walls whenever they can to protect themselves and language is just one of those places where there are walls everywhere. There is tone, expressions, folklores, something that someone said on television 10 years ago, and that expression that got catchy after a commercial.

It is hard to adjust, even in the same basic background; we have so many things in common and still fail to communicate properly too many times. Is it always the foreigner’s responsibility to adapt? Yes! Of course! That’s what most people say.

If you’re an outsider, you must adapt to the new place. You have to be respectful, though, and be careful to not insult things without even realizing.

The competition rises as soon as you say you’re not originally from that place. We have the most and the best of all of the languages in the entire universe, we are the best at describing, comparing, using verbs and adverbs.

As if whatever you bring to us is beneath us, as if we hold the complete knowledge of what’s best and what’s the best way to say it. As if language is a treasure and we found it, and you have nothing to show us that we could care.

So, you navigate in a new completely different (more than you would’ve think so) world. Where you can properly ask for a loaf of bread but fail to tell a joke. Where sometimes you fail to understand a joke and see contradictions in so many things but care not to point it out loud.

But as in every wall there are ladders and elevators. We have windows that let us come through from time to time and those things are people. Dear people too, people that take aside all their pride and listen to you for more than five minutes. This person compares your world to her/his own and you can express concern, learn the origin of some expression, and yes learn to tell a joke.

So, a dance starts where you’re almost not realizing it creates a whole different language, a mix between the local and the foreign, we mix things up and create new jokes and make fun of that expression someone said 10 years ago. But mostly you start feeling for the first time in a while that you can actually speak the same language. You make mistakes and there’s that time where your partner says something that back home means vagina and you both laugh.

The big lesson here is we can definitely build walls language is not an exception even if we speak the same one, but you can look up to that wall and say “this is impossible” or you could look for the cracks, the ladders, the windows and climb up, break it, and open it up.

You must adapt, yes, find someone who feels like adapting to you, too.


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