A few years ago, I went to a school to prepare for an upcoming TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) test. Although it was a short program, I had a good time there that summer. And I also made a lot of friends came from all over the world, like Japan, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, France, Spain, and Turkey. I think the class was a good way to learn the speaking and listening part of English because students can heard various accents and distinguish their own pronunciation errors which could cause misunderstanding. However, I was not anticipating that one day miscommunication could happen to me.
One sunny afternoon, during a short break from the class, I was in meditation and was not in a talking mood. A few classmates were talking and one guy from Peru turned to me and asked me something in a Peruvian accent, and I heard: “Hey, are you a gay?”
“What?” I was not sure how to react.
“Are you o’ gay?” I assumed that “o” and “a” pronounced similarly in Spanish.
“No.” I was curious why he asked that question.
“What’s wrong? Did you go to see a doctor?”
“Err…No.” I thought I just answered his question, but why did he keep asking me like I am? However, even if I were gay, I don’t agree anyone should go to a doctor just because he is a gay.
“You should go to a doctor if you feel sick,” he added. He looked very serious.
I started to suspect something was wrong, especially the last word he said. I think nobody would be that rude anywhere in the world. So, I asked, “Can you repeat the first question?”
This time he slowed down a bit, and pronounced it carefully. “Are you okay?”
Finally, I noticed the “k” was not a “g,” it was “okay,” not “a gay.”
And then we laughed so hard that everyone on the same floor can heard it.
It was a funny experience. But looking back, I feel the event was significant in some way to let me understand why there are many conflicts and disputes in this world.
There are thousands of languages on Earth. Even within the same language, there exist different accents or dialects to separate us. Language barrier create culture barrier; culture barrier create mistrust; mistrust create perpetual hatred. As a result, political, territorial, economical, racial, and ideological conflicts seem endless; wars sparked between counties and within counties seem unavoidable. Often, they would say they were fighting for a righteous reason. But, actually, childish is the only way to describe it if we can look from a perspective outside our selfishness nature and see humanity as a single organism. If we can just sit down, clear some misunderstanding, and learn more about each other before fighting each other to misery every time we encounter something we don’t agree with, what’s left could be a good laugh instead.
It is to say that long ago, human used to have only one language and they stayed together to build a tower call Babel to reach heavens. So, God or gods, afraid of mankind to exceed they purpose to do, went down to earth and scattered them upon the Earth, and confused their language. But it may just another reassuring tale to explain our self-destruction tendency and our inability to unite. I believe human are more capable of greatness. Together, we can achieve more than Babel Tower, if we give ourselves a worthy goal.