Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Speak English Me

She always sits by herself. Sometimes she has headphones in her ears. They isolate her, insulate her, cut her off from the world and the people in it.

People don't approach her, because she seems so unapproachable. I do not approach her either because I don't think she wants to be approached. And yet, I can't help but think that she is not unsociable. She doesn't carry with her the taint of contempt for her fellow human beings. She doesn't glower and glare, or hunch her shoulders against the encroaching crowd.

She smiles when someone catches her eye. Sometimes she nods in agreement when a comment is made. She claps when the team does well. She congratulates the boys when a good play is made. Her English is very poor, but they understand praise in any language. She thanks the Coach after each game and practice.

One day, I get the opportunity of working with her in the concession stand. She tries to make small talk, but it's obviously difficult for her. I try to repsond in kind, but sometimes I misunderstand, which can be both funny and mortifying. Our conversations are stilted and laborious. So we stand, leaning forward on the weathered wood of the counter. And we stare out into the brilliant sun, connected, but unspeaking.

Suddenly she sighs, and says..."Is so HARD!"

There is anguish in her voice, embarassment, sadness. I look over, and there are tears in her eyes.

"What is it?" I ask.

"I try learn English. But my, err...work, is no English speak. All Spanish."

"Oh..." I say, waiting for her to continue.

"I ask sons, speak English me! They no want listen. They too....hurry."

I nod, understanding. The impatience of adolescent boys is something every mother can relate to. It's a phenomenon that crashes through cultural barriers.

"Oh...yes..." I say. "That makes it very hard to learn, doesn't it?"

"YES." she sighs.

I tell her, in small words and simple sentences that I used to speak fluent French, but because I have not used it for 15 years, I can scarcely conjugate a verb anymore. I tell her I'm sad about that.

"I take class now. I learn English. I not be embarass."

"Good for you! I bet you'll learn it very quickly."

"I er..hope."

She smiles then. She feels better having told someone that she is not lazy. That she does not hold us in contempt as is so often assumed. I think then that it can't be easy to live with that kind of judgement always hanging over your head.

She asks me many questions that day. What is the name for this? How do I say that? Do you always call it a such and such? Do the adjectives always come before the noun? I like it, this teaching. And she likes the learning. We can laugh at the mistakes, both hers and mine, which makes it feel more like a game or a secret shared than an English lesson. Before, I didn't know she was so friendly. Before, I didn't really try to know.

These days, she seems a little less afraid. She doesn't always sit with headphones on. She sits with the other parents. She says hello, she asks..."Please speak English me."

In a strange way, I am proud of her. I think she is very, very brave. And I think she is magnificent.

24 Comments:

  • At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Chelle said…

    This is great! I get so agitated because there are so many people who refuse to learn anything about the country they live in. For every 1 willing to learn there are 9 others who rebuke any effort, scared they are going to lose their idenity, their culture, their ancestry. What they don't realize is that they are gaining a culture to influence, hopefully, in a good way.

     
  • At 2:25 PM, Blogger Hairline Fracture said…

    You were the perfect person to help her, too.

     
  • At 2:52 PM, Anonymous g. said…

    Awesome BA. Well done. Good on you for saying hello to this woman and now you have a new friend. :) I am actually jealous.

     
  • At 2:59 PM, Blogger Karen Sugarpants said…

    What a sweet story!

     
  • At 3:11 PM, Blogger Boliath said…

    My heart breaks for her and tears came to my eyes, I lived in France for a while and know the feeling of not understanding. Even now sometimes in this country I feel like that and I do speak English, just sometimes not the same English.

     
  • At 3:19 PM, Blogger margalit said…

    Having lived in another country and needing not only to speak the language fluently, but to read it in an alphabet that was not roman letters and had NO VOWELS, I can relate to how hard it is to be that foreigner. It almost hurts to be so out of touch with society and it takes so much to learn. English is a tough language, but you might want to help her find a volunteer ESL tutor. Our public library hosts such a program and there are literally hundreds of volunteers teaching people from all over the world.

     
  • At 3:33 PM, Blogger Pgoodness said…

    very nice helping her - it's good for both of you.

     
  • At 3:41 PM, Blogger Lara said…

    what a happy and touching story. i really needed that today. thanks.

     
  • At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Little does she know that she struck up a "conversation" with one who is brilliant with the English language. I wonder if she could somehow sense it.......

     
  • At 8:45 PM, Blogger cndymkr / jean said…

    Good for you. What a great post to start the Fourth of July weekend.

     
  • At 10:18 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    sometimes it just takes a little encouragement, doesn't it?

     
  • At 12:53 AM, Blogger Crazed Mom said…

    There's a woman in my nutrition class who will be in nursing with me. She speaks english quite well though her original language is Hindi. She thinks I veri special because I explain our idioms to her. I help her write her english assignments. If I need her to repeat words so I can understand she is patient with me. She asks me why other students aren't so nice. I don't know. This is a country of people from other countries and I feel we should all be kinder to our newer citizens. It doesn't make special. It makes me human.

     
  • At 7:19 AM, Blogger Mary Alice said…

    That was a beautiful post. Thank you for taking the time to understand her. My son's girlfriend came here in the 8th grade from Brazil and was put right into school, not understanding the language. She was so embarrassed, so frightened and tired of trying to communicate that she hid in the school bathroom stall to eat her lunch alone for the first month. It is very difficult for ELL students and far more difficult for the adults. Maybe you have a calling?

     
  • At 10:18 AM, Blogger the only daughter said…

    Bravura to the both of you.

     
  • At 10:45 AM, Blogger The Woman said…

    I'm proud of her too, at least she's trying to learn

     
  • At 12:09 PM, Blogger Pendullum said…

    A great deal of my daughter's friends are new immigrants....
    And I help in the gentle or not so gentle maze of the English language... for the parents...
    It is so hard, and they are so brave having left Russia and Thailand... and really, it does take time to help...
    I am so blessed to be given the honour to do so...
    and they in turn have taught me about their countries... and so wonderful to be given such amazing accounts of their countries.
    Hope she mets more people like you...
    As everyday, there are new words to be learnt and less isolating when they can be shared...

     
  • At 7:12 PM, Blogger Antique Mommy said…

    We had some friends in this weekend. He is American, but she is Thai. Her English is improving, but my goodness, even after many years, it is still hard, so many nuances. Sometimes we can laugh over something she says that is "slightly" wrong. I tell her she is doing well and that makes her face light up. I tell her she is doing much better with English than I would with Thai. And it is true.

     
  • At 9:33 PM, Anonymous gurukarm said…

    Another thing maybe you can do for her is just drop a mention in conversation with the other baseball moms that "so-and-so's mom (with the headphones) is trying really hard to learn English, maybe we can all just say hi and a sentence or two to her when we see her..."

    And Antique Mommy has it SO right - so many native English speakers get so aggravated with immigrants who "aren't trying" or "don't care" (even though many possibly are and do) - but, could we do any better in another land? Doubtful (in a lot of cases at least).

    Thanks as always for an important and useful post.

     
  • At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Veronica @ Toddled Dredge said…

    It is so, so hard to learn another spoken language. It's the humiliation of suddenly sounding like a toddler again that makes it so hard. Only the brave try it.

     
  • At 10:28 PM, Blogger Dianna said…

    A perfect post for this weekend*!*
    Wonderful story~hopefully she will run into more people like you :)

     
  • At 10:00 AM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    I agree. . .a perfect post for this weekend.

    It has got to be so hard, so isolating. . .good for her for trying so hard to learn, and good for you for trying to help, for listening.

     
  • At 12:03 PM, Blogger IIDLYYCKMA said…

    that could totally have been me 15 years ago when I met my husbands family. They are all from Europe and English is not their first language. When I went to their house of course you had to learn the language -- sink or swim. I did a lot of treading and floundering.

     
  • At 3:15 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    I just can not imagine going to another country, not knowing the language, and trying to survive. How overwhelming and frightening it must be to be in her shoes!!

    Good for you for showing her that people care and are willing to help her. I'm proud of you, Mama :)

     
  • At 12:45 AM, OpenID planetnomad said…

    (sorry this is so late)
    GOOD FOR YOU!! I am so glad you spoke with her. Will you see her again? Can you spend time letting her practice her English with you?
    I'm a little bit passionate about this because I've lived overseas, and it's soooo hard! People get impatient with you or think you are stupid, and you just long for someone to understand. So sorry to go off in your comments section.

     

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