I woke up this morning to a tweet from an old classmate, which slightly angered and offended me. It read along the lines of no offense to ESL learners, but why don’t you try and learn the language? Why was I so offended and angered by this? Well, I am that ESL learner right now. I am that person who is opening herself to judgement for living in a foreign country and not being able to speak the language. Though I’m more of a JSL (which is probably not an official term), it’s still the same situation.
Then I thought about it, this is probably the thought process of hundreds, probably thousands of people in the US. Why don’t you just learn our language? Being an expat, even though it has been only 6 months, has taught me so many things about being more understanding and patient. Just stop and think for a moment, are you one of those people who think just learn our language already. Have you ever been in a situation where you were the language learner in a foreign country? If not, step into their shoes for a moment. Many of these people you encounter are most likely not there to study abroad. They aren’t there to study the language, but to work, support their family, or try to make a better lifestyle than back in their home country. If you’re at work for eight hours a day, then have to come home and take care of yourself or your family, that leaves very little time to learn a language. Not to mention self teaching yourself a language or going to a language class takes a lot of time and practice. It’s very difficult to learn a language, I know I’m struggling right now.
Before you judge someone for not knowing your own language, take a minute and step back. You don’t know their story. Maybe they do want to learn English but they’re too busy, maybe they’re too afraid to use the little English they know. It is possible to live in a country for 10 years and not acquire the language, if you’re not actively learning it. In my personal experience, I study when I can, but sometimes I’m too tired or have other things to do, and sitting down to learn Japanese takes a backseat. There are times when I’m afraid to speak in fear of making mistakes and sounding stupid. Speaking is the most difficult part of a language for me. Trying to put together a sentence to get my point across can be so daunting and tiring.
I pose this challenge for you today: open your eyes, open your mind. Before you complain or judge something, take a step back and think, do I know the whole story? Am I being too rash? I believe being more understanding helps lead to more positivity and being less irked about something you can’t control. Being more understanding helps you see the world in a different view. Take a deep breathe and open your mind.
Have you ever had the experience of being the second language learner? How did people treat you? For expats, from your experiences, are there anything that has made you more open minded?