I stumbled my way through ordering a cheese pretzel the other day in the only language in which I claim fluency. It wasn't overly impressive. The server was polite. She knew what I meant.
During our transaction, smiles were exchanged. Somehow we connected. It's possible that the server's first language was not English. But few words were required. With being temporarily tongue-tied, I was lucky. But the whole thing got me thinking about how language can be a barrier to connecting. That's unfortunate.
I find languages interesting and know some words in a few different ones. French is my strongest. I realize now that I have never used second language skills to get to know someone. I understand a few words in Italian but I never got to know my friend's grandparents when I was a child. They spoke Italian and I didn't and, while I was in their house a lot, we could not communicate. Or we didn't communicate - maybe we should have made an effort.
I am not proud of the fact that even now, I find it very challenging to converse with someone who doesn't speak English well. That's terrible. But I don't pick up as much information from a person nor as good a sense of what they're really saying. I wish I could. And it's harder for me to express myself. I wish it wasn't.
As wonderful as a variety of languages is, I wonder what it would be like if somehow, we all spoke the same one. If language stopped being a barrier, we could understand and relate to so many more people. We could have deeper discussions and learn more of people's experiences from around the globe. We would be able to know each other's feelings more deeply too. I think it would be wonderful.
I don't think there will be only one language in the near future, nor should there be, but thinking about the concept makes me realize that I should try harder to get to know people, however tricky conversation with them may be. There are so many amazing people in the world who have so much to share. It's worth listening and working hard at understanding.