Nothing really prepares you for the language barrier when you go to live in another country. You can't really brace yourself for the moment you realize that your biggest challenge will be speaking. You can't anticipate how it will feel to know that you know less vocabulary than the average five year old. You don't realize how proud you will feel when you understand a basic sentence such as "What do you want to eat?..."
I know that the people around me are saying something. They are saying something relevant, normal and perhaps something I could talk about too but only if I knew what it was! It's such a strange concept that the person to the left and right of me are speaking something, something that in my own language I could understand and yet all I hear is "fdalfdakllds."
I studied Czech for at least ten minutes a day from last December until now and yet I know nothing. The culture shock exercises at Rotary meetings gave a taste but not the whole meal (not that they ever could). The "Basic Czech" audio tracks are much slower than how your average Czech person speaks. What should sound like many words sounds like one really long "fkjdlaklfdsal."
This is not the kind of language barrier you get when you go on a vacation. This is the kind of language barrier that you must live with. This is the kind that takes your being down a notch. There is something about being put into a place where you don't understand anything that makes you a bit abase. The fact that you can only look at people and smile when they speak to you rather than comment or hear their ideas or tell them your own ideas is demeaning. All I can think is how dumb I must seem to these people.
I think something in English and wish so much to tell someone but I can't find the words to express my idea. I want to prove that I am more than the quiet American but now it seems impossible to do so! Suddenly, speaking seems scary. I love being on stage, I love performing, I love telling people my ideas but that's all gone. It won't come back without a lot of hard work and I won't have it to the extent that I did have it but anything is better than this. I only hope that it comes soon.
Things I miss:
-Understanding literature (I know it's beautiful but I don't know what it says)
-Understanding basic commands
-Making people laugh without doing something silly because I'm the foreign kid
-Having deep conversations
-Knowing what people are saying when they talk about me
-People talking to me and not about me
-People not avoiding talking to me because they know I won't understand
-Telling someone how I really feel
-Feeling super intelligent when I let out one of those deep philosophical thoughts
-Talking to my family and asking how their day was
-Being able to easily sing a song
-Understanding peoples facebook statuses
-Being able to converse in a group of people (it's best if its just one on one)
and you get the idea...
Language is the dress of thought. ~Samuel Johnson
If language is the dress of thought, mine are naked.