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Language Barriers

There’s something that divides the two of us.

It’s something far deeper than appearance.

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Although I’m American-born, the vast majority wouldn’t consider me anything remotely close to an American.

I was born in California, moved to India, and stayed there for 4 years.

I grew up speaking Gujarati while simultaneously learning English.

When I came back to the states, I distinctly remember getting made fun of for my accent.

Getting made fun of for accidentally slipping up on a word.

Getting made fun of for speaking my language out of pure instinct.

I wouldn’t say it’s my fault that I fail at communicating at a coherent level with both Gujarati and English.

When learning both at the same time, it can be confusing to tell which language is which, especially if you’re a child that doesn’t necessarily fit in anywhere.

Too Indian for America.

Too American for India.

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Somedays, I just don’t want to speak.

Somedays, my brain refuses to work in English.

Somedays, my brain suddenly forgets how to speak Gujarati.

Most days, I can speak both in a relatively decent manner.

However, I have my low days.

I communicate with my friends in English.

So, what happens the days my mind can’t translate English for the life of me?

I stop communicating with them.

Not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t.

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I don’t like letting my lack of clarity get the best of me.

I enjoy talking with my friends.

But I’m not blind.

I can see the way they look at me with a confused look on their face when suddenly the smart friend sounds like an immigrant arriving to America for the first time.

Or the way a flash of disgust creeps upon their face when I accidentally throw a Gujarati word into an English sentence.

I always feel the need to hold my tongue and just not speak at all to save myself from the embarrassment.

“Yeah it was really good…uh.”

“Movie?”

“Yes, that’s the word.”

“How do you even forget that?”

Maybe I take things too personally, but I can’t help but feel like the dumbest person alive when they give me that condescending look or try to hold in their laughs as if I’m not sitting a few feet away from them.

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It’s overwhelming, having to constantly translate sentences in your head and translate the things you say before you actually speak.

It’s especially overwhelming when you have to do it for hours on end in a fast-speaking place, such as school.

It feels like an information overload.

As if I were a computer software dedicated to constantly translating words automatically on-site.

But even machines need repair, don’t they?

The fast paced information flowing in suffocates me.

I can’t keep up and soon my brain decides to shut down and respond with panicked breathing, blurry vision, dizziness, and all-round confusion.

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So, what divides us?

It’s something called a language barrier.

On certain days, English feels like a foreign language even though I grew up learning it.

I can’t communicate with the majority of the people I know without English.

Like an invisible wall that prevents us from sharing ideas and feelings, solely because of language differences and what my brain decides it wants to remember.

Maybe it’ll always be a struggle for me.

Maybe i’ll be stuck struggling with both languages and get made fun of.

Maybe i’ll never fit in anywhere linguistically.

Maybe…I forgot the words.


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