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!!!!!

17 Comments

Ednutbee · 29th August 2012 at 9:41 pm

lol… sorry!

all d best in ur sojourn!

#incoherentFrench#

barnabs Inegbedion · 3rd September 2012 at 2:41 am

love ur sense of humor….

Claire Marie Algarme · 15th March 2016 at 5:55 am

When I was assigned to another country, I really tried to understand the local language and I somehow managed to communicate easily with locals. In the office though, they’d speak to me in their broken English and whisper in their local language. What they didn’t know was that I could hear them and understand them! I used it to my advantage and we’d just laugh off moments when they thought I didn’t get what they were saying.

Fred · 15th March 2016 at 1:22 pm

I am a shy person, and I usually wait for someone to approach me and make the first word. I guess that is really my nature as an introvert. However, once we hit it off, I become very talkative too.

Franc Ramon · 16th March 2016 at 8:33 am

I guess a smile can be a universal gesture recognize by all. It’s hard at times to be lost in translation when the major language is not your comfort zone.

Mommy Roxi · 16th March 2016 at 4:13 pm

I’m a non-native English speaker and I just love interacting with everybody when I’m in another country! It’s so liberating to speak a language that in my own country, when you speak it, you’re often thought of as ‘trying hard’ or a social climber for some reason. I know. It’s awful. It’s just a beautiful language that I find the easiest to express my thoughts and feelings better!

Suzanne Rudge · 16th March 2016 at 4:27 pm

Thanks for the laugh today, these are great photos! I can imagine it is very hard to fit in when you are not familiar with customs, language and so on. Laughing will certainly help you through!

Sunshine Kelly · 16th March 2016 at 7:45 pm

Sometimes I like to Gesticulating too, however have to depends on who I be with and what events / occasions.

fred erick · 16th March 2016 at 9:31 pm

This is such an honest post with humor. I love reading the blog. I am guilty as well of some of the things you mentioned. English is not my native language and sometimes I have difficulty expressing myself better. 🙂

Elizabeth O. · 17th March 2016 at 2:32 am

It’s definitely challenging to learn a new language, for some it could take years. I hope you overcome everything and the real you finally shines through!

Erica · 17th March 2016 at 6:55 am

Having traveled to foreign places where very little can understand or speak English, I find this post funny because it’s true. The hand signals is probably my favorite though! But you know what I learned is that no matter how different our languages are, one thing remains universal which is compassion and kindness.

Pooja Kawatra · 17th March 2016 at 10:02 am

So true and it does happen with all non english speaking people. Love the humour you have added here in your post.

Jason Panuelos · 17th March 2016 at 1:19 pm

Language barriers suck and I love how you tell your story! Good luck with the challenges you face ahead! 😀

Shubhada · 17th March 2016 at 1:26 pm

Ha ha…So true! I have experienced a few of such scenarios.

Barely Vegan · 18th March 2016 at 8:26 am

This was funny! I have a deep respect for non-native english speakers who speak english with confidence too. I wish i could do that with my spanish, but I always get nervous!!

George Felix · 19th March 2016 at 12:43 pm

This is so well written. And I could totally relate to it! Thanks so much for all the points. Keep it up!

Lee Rosales · 26th March 2016 at 3:35 am

That kid photo made my day. Being silly at the background is one of my silly thingy to do sometimes. Lol

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