Thursday, March 17, 2011

European Musings: FOREIGN but SAME

I get really excited by all the foreign culture sameness. I'm not sure why. For an example of what I mean, I'm currently sitting on a train and across from me is a, well, I assume a mother and a daughter. The girl must be about 5? 6? And the mom is reading her a story from a picture book. All of this is in adorable French, of course. The book says something like va au cirque (goes to the circus or at the circus I'm sure). She exclaims and looks at the pictures and makes comments to her mom just like an English child would, except it's all in French. (I know I know... well, duh! You're in France! So of course it's in French.) But it still makes me smile. It's capturing of how despite language barriers, despite cultural barriers, there are things that are simply the same, human reactions that are universal. The same type of thing would happen in Spain – I'd watch basketball coaches drilling their student players on a playground, but in Spanish. It would be the same, but foreign. I'd witness a person calling out to a friend they see unexpectedly on the street, but in Spanish - like someone had switched the language setting for my real life. I'd watch a European looking old man walking in the park by himeslf and think, "he's thinking to himself in Spanish!" And my favorite – when my little five year old students would run up to me to blame one another for doing something. When I first started teaching, I couldn't understand enough to know what had happened exactly, but I didn't need to know. I'd make up my own dialogue: “Teacher teacher! Look! Alvaro did this to my paper!” “No I didn't!” “yes you did!” “Well, Yago called me this name.” “NO!” “Teacher!” One time during one of these exchanges my bilingual coordinator was in the room (my boss). He heard the exchange, said something in rapid Spanish, and then Yago looked guilty and said begudgingly - “Perdona” (sorry). Same body language, same sullenness of any five year old boy who got caught misbehaving. It's all the same, but foreign.

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