“Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.”
While quoting Dave Barry is always an exercise in sheer comic bliss, here he has put his finger on something eternal, something existential, something irritatingly true.
And that is, other people are so terribly, awfully … other.
For one thing, they understand the gibberish with which they speak to one another. Whereas I, a proper English-speaking person, fail to see any difference between their babblage—however mellifluous (en Francais) or, as is the case far more frequently, just plain strange—and the language my sister and I made up on the spot, on long boring car rides. Complete with hand gestures. Never understanding, of course, a word that was said.
Let’s face it, the sheer ordinariness of a Foreign Language, in the life of a Foreign People, presents one of those obstacles of Otherness that most people prefer to avoid.
If they can. When I was a child, my father thought to teach me algebra by covering paper after paper with hieroglyphic-like equations, or formulae, or whatever the hell they were. I recognized the equal signs. That was about it. He understands this crap. I don’t.
If it can’t be intuited—I say the hell with it.