I don’t know if you know this, but I’m half deaf. The word I use the most is “what?” and I slap subtitles on everything I can.
So if I treat my native language as a foreign language, you can imagine how bad it is when coming up against actual foreign language.
When I came back home from adventures this morning, I ran into a flyer stuck on the front of our dorm, which informed us of a “New-Student Party.” Since it’s been like 4 days since human-to-human contact, I decided to go. And I picked up the American girl living down the hall. We’ll call her Maddy.
Like with any association-hosted party back at Michigan, I worried about who was going to go and if it was going to be lame or not. But I quickly brushed that aside because I HAD to meet people.
First off, it was exactly what I thought it would be. It’s like those dorm treasure hunts that we have back home. But it was different for me here. Here it was full of people who wanted to find other people.
It started off well—the music was a dim murmur in the background. I could understand roughly what was being said and what people were asking me and I found that I would break through the catastrophe that was my grammar to communicate this vague idea.
One thing I realized was how hard it was to think of conversation topics that I am equipped to deal with.
And then the music language-blocked me.
At first it was loud enough for even the others to ask for it to be turned down. But then they met at a happy medium, which was a no-go zone for me and left me standing there like THE awkward person of the party. Shifty eyes, not knowing how to stand, furiously sweating—although that last one is pretty normal.
It also doesn’t help that French is such a guttural language. The sounds literally come from the back of your throat and formed with a tiny mouth so a lot of the time, it comes out muffled. Not only that, but there’s this thing called liaison in French where you take the sound at the end of the previous word and meld it into the sound at the beginning of the next word. Oy. Overall, people went easy on us.
People were attempting to talk to me but there is a finite number of times where I can say “Quoi?” until I just laugh and pretend I understand. “Quoi” is already making its way to the top of my most-used list.
But, I did it. And I met 3 other international people. And played foozball with the other locals.