Location: CEA Office Praha 1
Listening to: “The Tide” by Spill Canvas
Mood: Musical. Just played guitar for the first time in a while.
Well, there’s a little less than two weeks left in Prague and I’ll admit my mind is already on the next adventure. Travel in America isn’t as cheap as Europe (once you’re over here, you can round-trip between most major cities from $70-200, and Nashville to LA is $200 each way) but I have friends in various states I’d like to visit. Studying for final exams is making me think pretty hard- and not necessarily about Czech Language, Consumer Behavior, and Human Resources.
Today on the tram there was a large group of French-speaking, middle-aged people. They must have been a tour group because one seemed to be in charge, corralling the rest, telling them to punch their tickets and informing them of free seats. Now, I’ve struck up conversations with other English-speakers on the tram (shout-out to the couple from Oklahoma who called me ‘brave’ for studying abroad without knowing anyone or the language!) but never with French-speakers. I was reminded of the time on Koya-San where I encountered French-speakers and awkwardly asked, “D’ou venez-vous?” leading to a great little chat in Fr-engl-apanese. But I know my French has deteriorated since then and hanging out with a native French speaker, plus visiting Paris with my friend who speaks French full-time, has made me self-conscious. If they had asked me a question I would have gladly responded, but I couldn’t scrape up the courage for a “Hi, where are you from?”
I’ve taken Czech classes twice a week for a whole semester and barely progressed beyond hello, goodbye, excuse me, where is _____, I’m a student, and I’m American. But the sad thing? I haven’t used those other than hello, goodbye, and excuse me. That may be an exaggeration, because I’ve ordered food and bought train tickets in pseudo-Czech, but most of the time, my “Mluvíte anglicky?” (Do you speak English?) has gotten the lucky response, “Yes, yes, what do you want.” I’m still glad I’ve studied Czech (I might not feel the same way after the exam) because I think it’s given me a better understanding of the culture, and it’s made navigating and shopping moderately easier. I still come back to the thought that I’ve never had a conversation in Czech. After all, once the ‘hello, nice to meet you, where are you from, I’m American’ pleasantries have been exchanged, where would it go? Back to me looking confused and feeling embarrassed I came to this country without knowing the language.
One thing that I’m incredibly excited for, upon my return to America, is the ability to read and understand labels and instructions on food. I haven’t messed anything up too badly, but it makes cooking just a bit more stressful when you’re not sure what setting to put the microwave on or if this is supposed to be cooked covered or uncovered, on high or medium heat. I had never really understood how lucky I was to be literate and a native speaker of my country’s language, until I came here.
Another memory is Japanese schoolkids who came up to me at a shrine or tourist attraction, incredibly shy, “Um, excuse me miss… do you speak english… may I please ask you a question for my classwork….” I smiled and tried to be patient and understanding, but after living in Prague and struggling to be that shy, language-impaired person, I’m going to try even harder to be understanding of people struggling with languages. Maybe I can get into some ESL tutoring or something.
I still love travel. I still want to go places and see things, and I’m still happy to understand a moderate amount of French and tiny amounts of Chinese or Czech. Living in another language, basically, has made me appreciate fluency and literacy. So Na Zdravi (cheers) to speaking a pretty common language moderately well, and I’ll be back with a CEA blog and HOPEFULLY my Istanbul blog soon (I got reminded that I still haven’t done that!)
Or I might just drop off the face of the earth due to finals (:
(Hey, if you haven’t liked this blog’s facebook page, you should go do that!)