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June 19, 2017

I want every single person who is ever tempted to say “We speak English here” to someone to do this: go live in a non-English speaking country for a few weeks and try to learn the language and live your life.

You’ll learn more than just the language and culture. You’ll learn how humiliating it is to not be able to express your needs (one day I ended up telling a woman at a pharmacy “Those little things that go around your finger” because I couldn’t think of the word for “bandage”).

You’ll learn how much your language defines YOU. How lost you feel when you can’t use your wit, your humor, your clever turns of phrase to ease social situations. How humiliating it is to talk like a three-year-old and to be treated like you’re dumb because of it.

You’ll say incredibly stupid things by accident, without meaning to.

You’ll learn that, without fluency, many people will have no time for you, that they will turn away in impatience and frustration rather than to bother with your foolishness. You’ll be relegated to the background, desperately trying to figure out what people are saying to one another right in front of you.

You’ll learn to treasure the people who do have patience and kindness for your bumbling with their language. You’ll see their lovely hearts shining past this barrier that divides you, and you will want to cry from relief.

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