I reflect here on the pleasure of speaking another language:

One day I went out marketing with my mother in Tokyo. At each little shop— the butcher’s and the baker’s and the vegetable seller’s—I did the talking, asking for a kilo of carrots or onions, a sack of sugar buns, a pound of Kobe beef, using the Japanese from my summer tutorial. Each time a clerk at a shop responded to my words by loading carrots into a paper cone or tying up buns in paper and colored string, I felt a little dollop of triumph drop through my body.

Do you remember the delight of communicating in a new language? Recollect a time you felt that sense of satisfaction. Or recollect your frustration with having to tackle a new language. Or bring back that time you goofed up in another language or couldn’t understand what was going on around you.

Of Many Lands: Journal of a Traveling Childhood

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