Remember the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel? After the landing of Noah’s Ark, the survivors wanted to build a monument to God. They wanted their gift to reach up into the heavens to God’s kingdom. God realized the combined efforts of the citizens would make anything possible because of their common language and he did not like the possibility of his creations knocking on his front door. So he made them speak different languages to each other and their conversations sounded like babel. Those who spoke the same language banded together from that common trait and set off to establish their own kingdoms.
A common language ties people together and gives them a combined strength. Those who do not speak or fail to learn the same language of the inhabitants are outsiders. They can never truly belong. Twice now, I have placed myself in living situations where I did not know the language, but as Nick Cave said, “Places choose you. They take hold of you whether you wish them to or not.” Although almost everyone in Fiji spoke a little English as a result of Fiji bring a British colony for a number of years, the inhabitants still spoke to each other in their native tongue. A language which could only be understood or learned by growing up in the school system or as one kavalingi told me when I asked how he learned to speak Fijian. “You have to live here for thirty years.”
Although Spanish is a much easier language to learn than Fijian with a vast resource of material available, it still takes time and at my age it takes a lot of time. The process is slow but I am learning. My background in Latin has helped with reading but my difficulty is with speaking and listening. I am determined to be an integral part of my new community. To have friends whom I can engage with in their language and not rely upon them to understand mine.