A smile lit up my face when my ears captured those words as I walked by a group of people.
Whenever I hear foreign words, it makes me curious about the conversation.
Nosy? Maybe. More than that, I appreciate how there are so many languages and how each language opens up a whole new world of people, culture, and understanding.
I listen to each word trying to make sense. The words, however, zoom past my ear. When someone speaks their native language or a language they are fluent in, it always sounds like I am watching a movie at double the speed.
The pace begins to slow down only when I start learning the language.
Even then, I can only catch fragments of meaning here and there. But that’s the beauty of languages. I don’t have to know ALL the words to communicate. I can understand the context from their body language — eyes that sparkle convey happiness or excitement, while hands constantly touching the head indicate frustration. I understand their emotions through these subtle cues and then focus on understanding the words to grasp their exact meaning.
So many languages and cultures, yet there is something universal among them.
In American Sign Language (ASL), for instance, one of the signs for the word ‘lotion’ involves rubbing the palm of one hand on the knuckles of the other. Even without knowing ASL, I might be able to interpret the intended message — a guess like ‘ointment’ or ‘cream.’ Even without speaking the language, I still understand that it involves something to be rubbed in.
With each word I grasp and each gesture I interpret, I get closer to the heart of a language and its people.
And I think, ¡Qué bonito!