Beginning with a Barrier
When I first met my host mom, it was a game of charades. Guessing she meant running by her running in place. I came to Italy knowing few words in Italian. The first dinner was a struggle, with us relying too much on Google translate and talking at each other helplessly in our own respective languages. I remember pointing at her porcupine keychain and saying just the word “contrada” to get across that I had done a small amount of research. Its amazing how exciting it can be to communicate across the language barrier, as little as it may be.
The experience is reminiscent of being a young child- pointing at a bottle of olive oil and barely being able to mumble a question to ask what you would call it. Slowly building a vocabulary based on what you use in everyday conversation. Clipping words that you know and sewing them into a scrappy sentence. As scary as it is to try sometimes, it is rewarding to see in the short amount of time I’ve been here how the conversation has shifted. It is not so one sided. Grasping the general idea of a sentence, laughing at the body language used to communicate more complicated ideas, and repeating awkward sentences learned in class have become the standard of dinner conversation. Being in the first few weeks of my semester abroad, I find myself looking forward to the growth I will see happen as I live here. Not only am I learning a whole new language, but I’m learning more about my own and how people as a whole communicate with one another. It seems to bring the world a little closer together.
Speaking and immersing yourself in a new language can be exhausting, but there's not much more rewarding than suddenly finding yourself understanding and connecting with someone you may never have been able to connect with otherwise.