I find myself thinking a lot about language in this in-between time from the close of my orientation to the beginning of classes.
Again and again during orientation I found myself marveling, “This is so easy! I can understand what everyone is saying!” After struggling through so many interactions in South Africa because of the immense language barrier, being able to communicate in English is a great blessing. (I do have a newfound perspective on the life of an international student and have been listening to their concerns – “everyone speaks so fast!”)
But there’s a new language to learn as well. It’s the lingo of Yale and Berkeley Divinity Schools. There’s a whole wealth of words, acronyms, and phrases that continue to confound me: Second Temple student, ISM, Patristics, CLC, and many, many more.
There’s also the language of the academy and the ivory tower. The challenge for me is to a) re-learn this and b) figure out how to communicate my experiences of the past few years in a way that people understand. There’s so much I want to share sometimes but I just don’t know how to say it in a way that does justice to the experience. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about the importance of the Anglican Communion but it doesn’t come close to the experience of actually belonging to a non-English-language church in another province. I wish other people here could have that experience.
I should note that amid the challenge of learning and re-learning all these languages is the challenge of just figuring out how life works – where classrooms are, where the ATMs that don’t charge fees are, who everyone is and where they come from, and so on and so forth. It can be kind of overwhelming.
One thought on “Languages”
I know how that feels. When I’m back in the States, I have a confidence that I didn’t realize was missing. I can say things more than one way and paraphrase. If I don’t understand something, I can ask the exact question I want and get the appropriate reply. Even though I might have forgotten how to use the ATM, I have no fear of inquiring. I don’t worry about how people will react to me.
I also feel myself wanting to yell at Americans for using slang and figures of speech with international students.