Languages are strange; they are a form of communication that utilizes grammar and vocabulary to build images of an idea, which the receiver then has to interpret. This process is all the more difficult for non-native speakers, which should warrant them a larger measure of patience and understanding than they are currently given, particularly in America.
Essentially, every conversation is a game of Pictionary in which the words have to be built instead of drawn. Imagine for a minute that in this version of the game one team has to use sand, the other bricks.
Those using sand represent native speakers of a language. With ease, a teammate can carelessly scoop handfuls together in a rough semblance of the idea they are trying to convey, and their audience will understand. Linguistically, this comes across as slurred words, improper grammar and slang.
Non-native speakers are trying to build the same picture, but with bricks. They need to pick up each piece individually, make sure it’s the right piece and remember the correct way to put them together. It’s a much more methodical, slow, labor-intensive process for what is often a rougher end product.
Let me explain it in another way. When I am speaking in English, I don’t even think when I say “Hey, you guys wanna eat?” Trying to say the same thing in Italian, I recall each word separately then mentally review the conjugations by subject and tense.
“I’m talking to multiple people, a mix of genders, so I should use the masculine plural ‘ragazzi’. Ok, ‘volere’ means ‘to want.’ Which tense am I using? ‘Y’all’ would equal … voi. What is the voi tense of volere? Volete, right. Ok, then to eat is ‘mangiare,’ but I don’t need to conjugate this one.”
This all runs through my head at lightning speed, before finally; “Ciao ragazzi! Volete mangiare?” I can’t just think about the meaning of the question. I have to think of the words, the grammar and, in this case, the spelling.
Fumbling through another language is sometimes funny, usually frustrating and always tiring. So next time someone is struggling through the linguistically ridiculous language we call English, have the patience and understanding to wait as they slowly build their picture.
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