Saturday, January 05, 2008

Words...(Gesundheit)

Setting: Paris, 6th arrondissement (Rue des Rennes), McDonald's Restaurant, circa 1990

After a hard day of lecture classes in Paris, my American schoolmate (from Kansas) and I ducked into "MacDo" for a taste of the familiar.

Me: How do you say "Big Mac" again?

My friend: I can't rememb... (sneezes)

Stranger behind us: Gesundheit.

My friend: (To the stranger) Oh, finally, someone who speaks English!

I wanted to crawl under a table...

It has simply become a habit that you say "God Bless You", when someone sneezes. Gesundheit had just become such a knee-jerk reaction, that she didn't even notice that it was of foreign origin.

Now, looking back on it, I realize her point was "A familiar word! I am so happy to hear something I recognize!" If that were to happen today, I would just laugh, knowing what she meant vs. what she said...

Don't we all seek the familiar?

I had a deep pressure massage today. I was wearing a hand-knit sweater when I entered the massage room, which opened up a whole conversation with the masseuse about knitting, sewing, art and life. Talking to her was fascinating, and relaxing. During our hour-long conversation, I found that we do indeed "speak the same language"! (although I was still too chicken to try acupuncture)


My masseuse, a Chinese woman who has been in this country for 9 years, was telling me how difficult it was for her to learn to speak English when she first came to New York. A well-educated woman, she had learned English in China, but found herself completely unable to get the words out when she needed to say something. She took classes here, and couldn't bring herself to participate. She was computer-phobic, because she found the keyboard daunting. She, like many Chinese immigrants, was more comfortable getting her news and information from Chinese sources, in her native language. Much of that has changed for her in recent years, and the internet has opened her mind to many other interests and pursuits. Now, she uses the computer to learn about things, make friends, and chat in online communities.

Our son Aaron (2 1/2, Autistic, if you are new to the blog) is trying to speak. More words come every day. Putting those words into sentences still hasn't come together yet, so what we hear now, is a cross between the Governator



and "Pootie Tang".


I can tell that his frustration over not being able to make his words understood is really causing him great distress. We have hesitated about teaching him too much sign language before now, but I am changing my mind. The desire to communicate, and to be understood is fundamental.

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