It’s hard to believe that I can’t speak the language of my city. I never really thought about this until today. For five months I’ve been living naturally in Cataluña, feeling comfortable and adjusted. Aside from some place names and a few key words (thank you, please, exit, enlargement), I know nothing of the Catalan language. It makes me wonder, is language really that important?
When I walk the streets of Gracia, browse the aisles of Condi’s, or ride the metro to class, I don’t speak, and no one speaks to me. I kindly acknowledge my fellow denizens, and they accept me as part of the community—albeit an unusual looking member of the community. Rarely, someone does talk to me. I don’t understand a word, but I can normally guess their intentions and respond with a nod or a shrug of the shoulders. If I have completely no idea why the person is talking to me, I just smile and look interested. This appeases my neighbors, and we all walk off with a smile.
When I first moved here, I planned on learning the language. How could I live somewhere for two years without speaking the language? I borrowed some Catalan textbooks from a friend and eagerly read the introduction, the history of the Catalan language. Once I got to the real page one, I lost all ambition and decided to let the books collect dust until my friend demanded their return. Perhaps I could have benefited from a few hours of learning the basics of the language. It could have been beneficial for when I read my utility bill, when I order a drink at the bar, or when a cute girl strikes up a conversation.
Language is insignificant in communication. We all share something more than a comprehension of some pattern sounds. Language is so irrelevant that it took me five months to fully realize that I don’t speak the language of my city, despite being fully adapted.