I have come to appreciate and respect non-native English speakers who speak English without fear or shame. I remember taking that flight many months ago swearing that I’d become as good as a native French speaker and feeling like I was on track to becoming a polyglot like my polyglot mentor Pope John Paul II who spoke at least 10 international languages of which he spoke 8 fluently.
I often wondered why in Nigeria, foreigners smiled so much. I came up with the answer that it was because Nigerians are warm people. I know the right answer now, I’ve lived it!!!
Here are some other habits and personalities which I have embarrassingly adopted.
Smiling too much: The easiest way of getting out of a hole when you don’t understand half of what’s being said is to smile which then turns to an embarrassed grin when you realize that an answer is required of you. I smile so hard now that I actually have wrinkles 🙂
Looking stupid: this is the most common one next to smiling. It happens whenever I have to give a report, speech or talk to a fine boy. In the case of the boy, I never talk first! No matter how hard I practice, a look at that fine face, crowd or sweet smile(s) blows up my hard work in smoke! Sometimes, I get the feeling that people think I’m on the scale of being from a tweeny bit to fully retarded.
Inability to whisper: Whispering has become a thing of the past. It is totally impossible for me to whisper in any language that isn’t English. Whispering in a non-English language to me is equal to staying mute. I was told recently that the act of speaking a foreign language comes from one side of the brain; all other actions and thought processes come from another. Maybe these two sides of the brain do not work together! I might need to do more research on that!
The quiet one: People have described me as being a very quiet person. In response, all I do is smile and say to myself “Ahhhh, if only we could speak in English”. It sucks not to be able to communicate your thoughts and feelings. As such, I definitely cannot show my real personality. Instead of seeing the witty, bubbly and philosophical side of me, all they see is the quiet little mouse who is quite more than content with staying on the outside.
Gesticulating: This now second nature to me and it comes along with the making of stupid faces! Sometimes, I cringe inwardly when I realize some of the things I do. Anywayz, this is where the creative part of me shows through (I think). It also allows me find out which gesticulations are international and which are just plain Nigerian. Now, if I write a book about gesticulations, I’d have more than a million copies sold.
Strange “Oh no” moments: I am not a shy person. I am rarely scared of things too (except really strange and scary looking people). I am known to scare big burly guys that sit opposite me in the train and stare down at me by just glaring at them until they are forced to look away, and on one occasion, change seats. However formal speaking on the phone scares the pants off me. Anytime I have an IT issue and I have to call the IT dept, I practically swallow hard 5 times before I make the call. If it’s the bank, 10 times.
I have been told that all these are normal for foreigners to experience. I hope to quickly pass through this phase so that I can become the real ME J
Wish me luck!!!!!