Thursday, March 6, 2014

Experiencing the Power of Language

It started as a simple search for an outlet. I just needed to plug my laptop in so I could charge it. 

"Excuse me," I asked the Mc Donald's employee who was diligently sweeping the floors nearby, "Do you know where I could find an outlet to plug my laptop in?" 
She looked startled. Then, hesitantly, she replied, " English..." 
"¿Hablas español?" I inquired. 
At first, she seemed startled. Then, there was a light that sparked in her eyes
I repeated my earlier question, this time in Spanish, and she immediately helped me find an outlet for my laptop. 

Fifteen minutes later, we were still talking about her family. She told me about her daughter, a lawyer, who lives in the United States, and another one who is studying to become a teacher by taking online classes at a university in Mexico. I learned about her grand kids who still reside in Mexico. She asked about me...what I did and where I studied. We were two complete strangers but in that moment, we were connected by a common bond. 

In that tiny slice of life today, I was reminded of the power of language. Language connects us to each other. Knowing more than one language isn't about becoming more marketable or about making us looking better on a resume, but about possessing the ability to connect with an entirely different group of people. 

This morning, I am thankful for language and the wonderful opportunities I have had to study the languages of other countries. I am thankful that today it allowed me to connect with a kind woman from Mexico and I hope that maybe, just maybe, I was able to be a bright spot in her day, as she was in mine. 


  1. I've had to ac as an interpreter twice in the Portland, OR airport. Both times, I my sister was checking in to return home. Each time I was moved from glad to help, to really ticked that airlines aren't prepared for this, to angry they didn't give my sister some sort of perk because I helped out, and back to glad I helped. It was making a connection with the other person, and knowing they appreciated my help, that mattered.

  2. I've often wondered how my ESL students feel. Are they anxious all day until they get home and can relax, speak to family that understands? Thankful that you were a bright spot for your new friend.

  3. You have demonstrated through your writing the power of connecting with other human beings, as well as the importance of a power connection for your laptop. A clever juxtaposition of ideas. The pursuit of one connection lead to a much more significant one. Your piece speaks volumes for the capacity of language to facilitate contact. Great to read!