Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring is Gone, Harmonicas, and Language Barriers

Spring was here for 3 days. Now it's gone. Yesterday it started snowing, then it melted during the day. Last night, the snow fell again, and it's starting to melt again today. Who knows how long this could go on for! Poland is crazy. I just hope all the birds, bees, and flowers that were fluttering the in breeze last week have found some warm shelter.

Bhadri has taken up the harmonica. He's getting pretty good at it, and it's only been a week or two. He figured out how to play "Amazing Grace" all by himself, and has pretty much mastered a train noise (it's really cool!). He downloaded a few song guides from the internet, including "Oh Susanna," "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and "How Many Roads Must a Man Walk Down."

I've been thinking a lot about the role of language. This so-called language barrier. It's something we encounter a lot here. We teach our language, first of all, but also we struggle with not knowing the local language everyday. When we go to the store to buy food, when we walk Booster and an old lady with her own dog stops us to chat, when we want to know the weather on tv, when we want to know what party won the last election, when we want to know where we're going while on the's always a challenge. I always thought that language is a communication tool--that we'd be better off knowing the language of the country where we lived. But I'm not so sure now.

Because we don't know the words, we can only observe people's expressions, movements, and intonation. When we go to the store and say "dzien dobre" (good day), the shop workers smile and give us a hearty welcome back. It's a game now to order cheese or coffee from behind the counter, and it's smiles all around. When we meet another dog walker on the sidewalk, we end up giggling at all of our inability to speak, and leave each other in broad smiles. Is this not communication? I'm starting to think it's a much more pure form of communication than using the correct grammar and essentially using each other as a means to an end. It's always an experience in itself everytime we encounter someone that doesn't speak English. We are all aware and conscious in these encounters, and it feels authentic.

1 comment:

TM in Austin said...

Hi Kids. I didn't realize my comment would be automatically published. On my blog, I have to "approve" first. So sorry! Hope you guys are well. All is great here. Erica's wedding was fantastic and she's still a nut-job! It's great to read your adventures. Take care and be safe. --TM