I have a confession. This may be disappointing to read, but the fact is… I’m unilingual. I didn’t realize it until I was sitting in a pub in Wurzburg, Germany, listening to a conversation I understood almost literally none of. After fourteen hours of traveling I found myself in complete disarray. After landing in Germany earlier that day, for the first time in my life I found myself having to ask on multiple occasions, “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” with a realistic understanding the response just might be, “Nein…”
I was lucky Enough to be meeting up with my friend Ronja, who is working through school as a translator. My visit to Germany was a good excuse for her to practice her skills, so she was kind enough to accompany me on part of my journey. Sitting in the pub that first night however, I began to feel embarrassed about my lack of language skills. Feeling as though I should apologize for needing to have everything explained in English if I were to understand.
At one point we all discussed (in English) the disappointing nature of English speaking cultures and the expectations they put on others to speak their language. I talked about feeling failed by the American school system for not being expected to learn a second language, as is the norm in so many European countries. While it is true that many people decide to remain ignorant, we are raised uninformed in the United States. We are not given the opportunity or encouragement to embrace other cultures as children, which breeds narrowmindedness and entitlement as adults.
We must CHOOSE to gain a world-wide perspective on life, and we must take it for ourselves once we do so. We cannot EXPECT experience to be served on a silver platter. We must GO and steal it from the universe. We must learn to NEED experience, as we need food, to thrive. When we experience life, we learn more about others and ourselves alike, and we learn to act in love. One of my favorite things about going to new places, is witnessing first hand most peoples’ kindness and their willingness to help others, to learn about others, and to laugh with others, regardless of language barriers.
Ronja and I met on my first international trip to Scotland this past August, along with an entire group of travelers who met at different points on their journeys and even still remain in contact. She and I are on a train to The Netherlands, excited to see the country for the first time, and looking forward to learning about their culture and customs. After our time there I will be heading to Spain by myself for a week. Thankfully, my Spanish is better than my German, due to the four years of classes I CHOSE to take in high school and college. I am however, nowhere near fluent…
We are pulling up to the station soon, and I need another quick lesson in Deutsch from Ronja before we embark on more adventures.
Follow my journey on Instagram at the link above.
In the meantime, GO. LEARN. LOVE.