Interacting in our second language is scary. Lots can go wrong;
You want to say you’re hungry but everyone gets angry.
You make an appointment for Tuesday but no one arrives until Thursday.
You ask someone for a piece of something but they point to the toilet.
It feels worse because we aren’t even sure why.
So we assume that we must be the problem;
‘They didn’t understand my pronunciation, my grammar is terrible, or maybe it’s just my face!’
This inevitably leads to feelings of embarrassment and shame;
‘Stupid me, I’ll never improve, what’s the point?’
‘Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change’
How can we avoid this shame?
What are we forgetting?
Like in our first language, or any language, interaction requires at least one other person.
What about them?
have hearing problems
enjoy tormenting foreigners
be sad because their dog just died
be so attracted to you they can’t speak
not be from where you think they are from
be difficult to understand in their own language
be so drunk they don’t even remember their own name
realise you are foreign and decide they won’t understand you, so they won’t
And so on.
Stay curious about why it happens next time (and it will).
Look for ways to improve.
But don’t let shame be the reason you don’t.
You worked too hard.
Be proud of that. There is more to come.
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