“Mesdames et Messieurs, nous allons bientôt atterrir à Paris, la température est de 26 degrés et il y a de soleil. Merci d’avoir voyagé avec Air France. Nous vous souhaitons un bon séjour à Paris et à bientôt. Ladies and gentlemen, we will be landing shortly in Paris, where the weather is about 26 degrees Celsius and sunny. Thank you for flying with Air France. We wish you a pleasant stay in Paris and hope to fly with you soon.”
It was a long flight; I remember it all too well, my trip away from all that was familiar, and my voyage to a new beginning. I would be starting all over in every way: a new city, new apartment, new friends, new life, but most of all a new language. The challenging part about learning a new language made me return to my infancy and a childlike panic of being misunderstood. This was the second time in just two years that I had experienced these feelings, first in Italy and now in France.
Learning a new language is something that Americans aren’t driven to do. Most of us daydream or stare in envy at others speaking foreign tongues. “Wow!” we say, “I am so jealous. Someday I would like to learn one as well.” New languages to us are not looked at as important. We assume that English is the international language, and thus, we have the right to go wherever we please, --saying “hello, goodbye, thank you, (and the best one) excuse me, sir, do you speak English.” This is so common; I hear it on a daily basis. Someday, we will have to step outside of ourselves and offer a greeting that is familiar to the other party. --“bonjour, salue, bongiorno, ciao!” Americans might then be thought of as less pretentious.
"C’est la vie.” No matter how difficult it was for me, a former Star Valley resident, to adapt, I had to keep the thought in mind that it was possible, and the reward was much more than I could perceive the reward was seeing the “chef d'oeuvres” (masterpieces) of the Louvre, the immense cultural intake, the Bateau Mouche (a sight-seeing, romantic boat ride) that snakes its way down the Seine, showing off the wonders of Paris or even just simply sitting at a sidewalk table at the Café de Louvre (a chic café next to the Louvre) in front of the Comedie Française (a theatre opened in 1799). No, It is much more subtle. It is a humility that only going abroad and all its experiences can offer.
They say that you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. Who we are is who we are, but this doesn’t mean that we are completely confined to the barriers of our birth. Most students go to their language classes just to pass the time, learning another language is just a side attraction. I know because I have done just that, I used to take Spanish. I would show up for class and flip through the book, take notes that I would never again look at. What I didn’t understand was that actually learning the material could have opened a whole other world for me. Communication is first thing we attempt at birth, as time goes by it becomes a strength and a connection but more than anything it brought me humility. Opening up to someone in their own language is, stepping outside of ones personal barriers but also a chance that they might step out of theirs as well, listening to each other’s stories and becoming a part of humanity.
People are like the words of a romantic novel; we are emotions in words. We write out our own stories unconsciously, each one a chapter in our own personal biography. The reviewing process can be tedious but to make the same repetitive errors in future chapters is a life without progression.
Unfortunately, most of us write these chapters with words that have no meaning to humanity. In breaking our barriers and speaking the language of humanity we can be understood anywhere in the world. We adapt to survive, but the comfort of our own homes holds us back from these opportunities. The unknown, beyond the front door, is the fear that restrains us. It is easier after one takes the first step.
As I made my way towards the exit of the plane the stewardess looked me in the eyes and said “Au revoir monsieur.” I stopped and smiled “Au revoir madame, bonne journée” as I stepped off the plane.