Your Conjugation Must Be Perfect

The other day I met a new acquaintance who is in the long and arduous process of learning English as their second language. And while talking with them, I had the uncomfortable realization that I had to keep reminding myself no, this person is not less intelligent than me. This person is not a child to be talked down to. This person is a person, exactly like me, just older and surely wiser, who happened to grow up in a different place.

Because language is so closely linked with age and experience and wisdom. Vocabulary comes only with time. Language is humanhood. And to be an adult in a new land with a new language that you don’t speak perfectly is to be treated as a child trapped in an adult’s body.

The wisdom is there. The age and the experience is all there. The brilliance, the humanity. But all that is seemingly locked behind bars of pronouns and conjugation and cultural bias. Bars that erode with time, dedication, and practice, yes. But time spent being treated as a child in a foreign land. Pointing out the weather and how good the food was. Trapped by the words that won’t come.

Looked down upon for having the courage, tenacity, and smarts to leave a home behind, travel far, and learn a language. That’s more than I’ve ever done, but still I snear.

One Reply to “Your Conjugation Must Be Perfect”

  1. Yesss, this is so so good. I’ve done this so many times too; made the same knee-jerk assumptions, realized my error and bigotry; worked to reframe and acknowledge and awe and appreciate. I’m practicing getting better at this too.

    -LS

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