Say What?

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

 › entry 2 of 4 › view all entries

I have had the fortunate opportunity to have Gigi as my roommate. She is a fun-loving girl and a very decent human being. She is also very motivated and compassionate. However one thing Gigi is not, is fluent in Spanish. Now don’t get me wrong, Gigi tries so hard to communicate to the locals in Spanish, but many times she has not had that much success. Gigi has lamented to me numerous times how frustrating it is to not have the ability to communicate or to understand a language. I usually just pat her on the back and reassure her that “it’s not that bad, don’t stress.” However this Wednesday, I learned how she felt.

            Growing up in very cultural cities, I have always had an affinity for the arts. I love concerts, art, dance, operas, etc. However I have always known the language or been provided subtitles to all the shows that I have seen. On Wednesday, I went with my classmates to watch Cosi fan Tutti. Like many operas, this work was written and sung in Italian. Dr. Bowman sent out a brief synopsis about the opera and told us to research it. However with the tight schedule and hustle and bustle of the day, I did not have time to read it. Consequently, when I hastily arrived at the Teatro Colón, I felt very rushed and stressed. However, then the orchestra started playing and I started to relax. Soon, the company started singing and started the opera. At that moment, I panicked. I realized that I had no idea what was going on. The subtitles were in Spanish and the work was sung in Italian. I caught a few words here and there, but overall I had to keep poking Shannon and ask her what was going on. Ten minutes into the opera, I had a headache because I was straining to read and translate the Spanish subtitles in a fast pace, look at the stage to see what was going on and at the same time, enjoy the music…. whew! As the opera progressed, I found myself more and more frustrated that I could not understand what was going on. Finally, intermission came and I debated leaving. And as fate would have it, at that exact moment, I locked eyes with Gigi. I finally understood how she felt and I felt horrible that I had brushed off her feelings. Not understanding the opera made me feel as though I was the odd person out on a joke that everyone else was laughing at. I was frustrated and angry that I could not understand what was going on. In a way, I almost feel as though my intelligence was being tested.

            This experience makes me think about my parents and how they must have felt when they first immigrated to the United States. Both my father and mother are highly intelligent individuals. They are both very accomplished and can hold their own with distinguished professionals. However, they still are not native English speakers and still struggle with some aspects of the language. I cannot imagine what they must have gone through when they first arrived to the States and could not adequately get their point across or understand what was going on around them.

            Consequently this trip to the opera has shown me that I need to be more appreciate to people who try to communicate in languages that are unfamiliar and not native to them. This trip has also made me wish there was a universal language that we could all learn… on second thought, nevermind. If we all spoke the same language, it’d be quite boring because no one would be unique and different. And as we all know, diversity is always a good thing. 
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