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How Does the Saying Go? Everyone Smiles in the Same Language?

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When I was a little girl, maybe five or six, I had neighbors who didn’t speak a word of English. Or, at least, wouldn’t speak it to me. They were immigrants from Mexico: a large family consisting of an elderly woman, parents, three teenage sons and one younger daughter. I had brothers of my own, but they were disinterested in playing with me. So, I used to go behind my house and play alone. I remember one of the teenage boys calling out to me in Spanish, gesturing for me to come over. I picked up my blue bouncy ball I had been playing with, and ventured near him and his siblings. They all talked to me, as if expected me to answer, but I knew no Spanish and never said anything back. We played all afternoon kicking the ball around and playing other games until my mother called me back.

“Hasta luego,” they’d say, but I just hugged my ball and went back home. This became a ritual for us. We’d play ball; they’d shout and laugh but I could never understand what they were saying. One day, their mother invited me inside. The house was dim, and quite empty but the people were very friendly. I remember being perplexed, because they did speak English! The television was blaring someone speaking in English. The family watched me, murmuring in English and giggled at the little white girl exploring their home. I remember finding their daughter’s baby doll kit, something I had seen on commercials and was excited about playing with it.

“She’s playing with my doll!” The girl, a little older than me, squealed in delight and was laughing. I was immediately embarrassed, put it back where I had found it, and left their home.

Years later, my mother, brother and I moved to a trailer park. One winter it had snowed a considerable amount, and my brother and I went in search of finding a good hill to ride sleds down. We came upon two dark girls who had the same idea, and they were having the time of their lives sledding down a slope on green, plastic disks. My brother and I immediately joined in, climbing up the hill to slide down it. The girls spoke to us in a language I didn’t recognize, but it didn’t matter. We spent hours riding sleds together. All of use pilled on a long slide I had to get the maximum speed we could get with our combined weight.

Oddly enough, after that day I became close friends with those two girls, who also happened to know how to speak English. And, after that day, they never spoke their native tongue around me again. I believe they were Navajo.

I have had many friends from countries all over the world, and many of them spoke different languages. I had always seen it as a mystery why they chose to speak English or not. It still confuses me to this day why the ones I mentioned held back the fact that they could understand me, and pretended not to. For whatever reason they did, maybe just to mess with me, I will never forget the great times that we spent together.

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Arty said...
Mar. 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm
I read this in my L.A. Class it was good
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