By Daniela Serrano
As you may or may not recall from past posts, I now find myself living in the quite wonderful city of Boston. I’ve been here for almost four weeks now, but only two of those have been actually living alone. Not completely alone, I have two adorable roommates (shout out!), but you get my point. Now, confession time: all through my application process and right up to the point where my parents drove away I had been supremely confident (read: cocky) about my ease with the english language. I’ve known english ever since I can remember, I write it, I read it, I spanglish it, but for the past ten years I have never had to speak it for more than five minutes. So I was sadly surprised to find myself struggling so hard, sometimes, with it. After much commute thinking about it I think I’ve found the best way to describe how it feels and I will share it with you because maybe some of you are in the same position or maybe you have friends who are struggling with words as well, and this might help, or not, but it can’t hurt.
First, what personally bothers me the most about this loss of words is not so much not being able to get things done but this feeling that when speaking english I’m only able to show a tiny portion of myself as opposed to Spanish where the whole of the language is available to me to communicate with people in a manner that is truthful to my character.
Sure it’s not incapacitating and most certainly there are worst things that can happen to a person, but it is terribly frustrating
And because my commutes are really very long (ugh the Green Line is the worst amirite?) here is a dandy metaphor so you can better picture my frustration.
Imagine you’ve always had in your room two sets of shelves, one is really high and has a bunch of cool stuff and toys and books and sugar and spices and everything nice, and the other one is much lower and it has some books, some coloring paper, a couple of black pencils, all practical but kinda boring things. Since you’ve always been able to reach the higher shelf, the one that you like best because it’s so much more interesting, the stuff on the lower one has just been gathering dust for a while (like that penguin in Toy Story.) To me, and probably to some, not being fluent in a language is as if one day you woke up and had shrunk.
And you stretch and stand on your tiptoes, but just can not reach that damn shelf, so, because one has to keep on living, you start getting by with the things on that lower shelf. But being forced to use the less fun things wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t know just how much more fun things were at the top shelf. So maybe you don’t crack the jokes you usually would’ve or stop yourself from participating in a conversation because the thought of having to translate, pronounce and possibly have to explain everything you say is so draining. And that, my friends, can get really upsetting really fast.
Now for the good news. YAY! Speaking a new language is a muscle, not technically but whatever, and like any muscle it has to get sore and worked out before it can look “Jane Fonda” great. So, as I sit here, deeper and deeper in my grad school assignments and life I can honestly say that I feel myself getting more comfortable with the language everyday, and that maybe the stuff on the top shelf is not irreparably lost, I just have to stretch a bit harder.
Now please tell me your own struggles with this type of thing so I don’t feel like the only loser who thinks about this on the train.