…because I don’t speak the language. Well, I do, but not fluently. Funnily enough I have no problem with people who honestly don’t speak English and honestly wish to talk to me. It’s those who do speak English but really want to see me ‘perform’ their language for them as entertainment, and switch to this half-smile, “let’s see the monkey do her trick” patronizing, eye twinkling look on their face and switch from English and then practically pant, waiting to see how I’ll respond in their native tongue.
F*** off. I’m not a precocious child or a cat doing something adorable on YouTube, and I have no wish to be treated so condescendingly. If that’s the attitude, then I’d rather walk out of the room then turn tricks for people who are treating me like an oddity, even if they mean it warmly and positively…. I don’t want to be even a warmly regarded oddity. I just want to be me, and treated the same as I’m used to being treated in English.
My fiance’s mother doesn’t think it’s adorable when I respond to her in her language. That is SUCH a relief. With her, there isn’t an alternative, and she genuinely wishes to talk to me, and there’s no ‘performance’ feeling about it, she would just really like to talk to me. I can’t resist that, plus she never acts confused if I make a grammar mistake or has any trouble understanding my version of her language. It’s almost like there isn’t a language barrier. If I struggle to find the right word, I don’t get flustered or embarrassed around her, because I’m not performing. I’m not on stage, with her. Or people like her, who are usually older, or for whatever reason have no English skills to speak of. They are so apologetic of being in the small minority in the western world who doesn’t have functional English language skills, that they would never look down on me or giggle or condescend to me for not being fluent in their language which is spoken by a relatively small group of people on the planet.
I need to be more in situations with people who don’t speak English, so I can just practice the darned local language without reservation or irritation. The majority of people in my generation are simply so good at English that it’s too easy to be lazy and it’s too easy for me to get tongue-tied at embarrassing myself in their language when the option to switch to English, a language that fluently works bilaterally, is there and irresistible.