For those of us who know who Sufjan Stevens is, doesn’t the title of this entry seem like it could be from one of his songs? I thought so, anyway. Well then, on to our story…

Here in Merida, many of the folks about my age speak English. In most cases they speak English about as well as I speak Spanish, which sometimes means that my fellow discussion buddies and I resort to that primitive (yet effective) method of communication which involves pointing, naming nouns, and more gestures than necessary. Other venezuelan students in VENUSA speak English like I could only dream of speaking Spanish. My friend Marlyn definitely fits into that “speaks like I want to” category. The other day, after Marlyn had helped me finish correcting my errors in my Spanish paper, she was leafing through the pages of my notebook. I pointed at the itinerary that I drew up for our road trip this past spring break, and said “nuestro horario,” meaning “our schedule.”

She said to me, “I know that. I’m not stupid, Fox.”

I think that I had gotten so accustomed to a certain level of communication that I forgot how obvious things like a chart of places and times tend to speak for themselves. I know that this wasn’t the first occasion in which I had taken someone’s intelligence for granted because I thought they might not have understood me or vice versa, but it was definitely the first time I realized just how insulting it is. I told her that I knew she wasn’t stupid, but I still felt as if I had done something wrong.

I couldn’t imagine meeting a new culture with a new language for the first time ever, and then trying later to explain your most complicated ideas such as the “pythagorean theorem” or the arch without a common language in which to discuss such things.

*Here’s a little aside. I put the “Pythagorean theorem” in quotes because I heard that it was actually discovered by the Persians several hundred years before Pythagorus dreamed it up, but they were ignored because they weren’t white. I’m not sure if it’s true or not because I heard this little tidbit in a comedy play, but I liked the play a lot, so props to the theatre troupe and to Kritty’s sister Nicole for scoring us those tickets.

That being said, I’m glad that other people have learned spanish before I tried, so that way I don’t have to deal with just pointing all the time. Thanks, Spanish-English dictionary!

Advertisements