I love languages.
To me, they are the key to the world – I travel a lot, and the places that have made me feel most at home were the ones where someone invited me to sit on a kitchen floor and drink wine with them, where I was being made fun of for my accent but found a way to counter, where I shared a taxi with someone who would tell me the story of their day. Wherever I go, I have this instinctive desire to grow roots. I need my heart to break when I leave; this may be a self-destructive streak in me, but it’s also what makes travelling so worthwhile.
Every time I meet new people, though, I realise again that, no matter the language we communicate in, everybody speaks a language that is uniquely their own. I, for example, have a habit of shouting “LODY!” whenever I come by an ice cream shop, a) because I love ice cream, and b) because lody is a delicious word, and we should all use it much more frequently; and then there is c) I am looking for like-minded people, the ones who understand my language – my tribe. They are the people I hold out for: The ones you don’t even consider doing small talk with; you know, the people who will tell you immediately about their thoughts on the afterlife and books they recently fell in love with and, yes, their Hogwarts house.
Moving to a foreign country is a daunting experience; everybody seems to be having the time of their lives, always moving in packs, casually greeting whoever they see, because they met at last week’s pub crawl – which they actually enjoyed! And here I am, at the umpteenth social gathering, sitting through yet another conversation that just makes me want to snore with my eyes open, wishing I’d be reading a book instead. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks into my stay in Poland that I realised how desperate for company most people truly are and that hardly anyone actually has fun at those parties without getting completely wasted. And, most importantly, I realised that there are people who love lody as much as I do, who will make me snort with laughter, and who also don’t like having their ear-drums blasted out on a weekly basis.
I came to Poland with very poor language skills; lo and behold, they’re still very poor. The true reason for this is not, as many people have tried to comfort me with, the difficulty of the Polish language – it’s just that I’m very lazy when it comes to learning vocab; how I managed to become fluent, or at least coherent, in four other languages is still a miracle to me. But I have found my tribes people. I’m no longer afraid of missing out when I stay in on a Friday night, because now I’m living my best life on weekday afternoons in cafés or during lunch in our tiny kitchen or on Sunday mornings in my favourite bookshop. The Instagram-worthy moments in life are not always the ones that make you feel most connected.
I love languages, I do. Maybe, because at the end of the day, they are not only a key to understanding other people, but because they allow me to be understood by them.