The Taxi driver looked back at me impatiently, “Ou souhaitez-vous aller?” he murmured. I continued to fumble with my French bilingual dictionary in an attempt to offer a coherent sentence. Under my breath I was almost preparing myself to use the sign language.
English was of particular interest to me right from my school days. It gave me a great sense of accomplishment to decipher my grandfather’s hefty encyclopaedias and my cousin’s nifty comics. By the time I hit high school, I was reading English classics from Arthur Conan Doyle to Charles Dickens to everything in between. From Doyle’s Victorian England to Maugham’s Far eastern tales, they were my favourite escapes in those seething summer afternoons. Someone had gifted me an Oxford English Dictionary and a Roget’s Thesaurus. I still look back and think of them as magic tools. It was like a treasure trove of words and expressions at my disposal and the joy of learning was limitless.
Around that time, I also began to notice the real impact of learning a language well. Up until then, the only by-product of my enthusiasm for learning English was limited to getting good grades in English Literature. Then suddenly I got picked up for the editorial board of my school magazine. I was getting nominated for Elocution contests, Debates and Essay writing. As if my afternoon escapes weren’t a secret anymore. This trend continued as I entered the rat race of corporate world. My language skills making me the first amongst equals at many instances. So when I suddenly found myself in a foreign land where my English actually stood for nothing, I was like a fish out of water. And my forte – communication, had come to a grinding halt of random words and signs. Though frustrated at my impediment, I still loved the sound of an unfathomable language as they spoke around me, at work, at my hotel, out on the streets.
Learning a language is a unique experience. Apart from the many benefits or opportunities that it may bring you, there is no replacing the sheer joy of learning a skill that helps you to connect with People. It simply opens up a whole new world of Literature, Culture, Places and History as you delve deeper into it. At the least, it can surely help you connect better with strangers in far-away lands. The key take-away for me that day stuck in the taxi was that we should never be limited by language. Learning knows no age and neither should it ever stop. All you need is the enthusiasm to learn something new again. And this time the magic tool was my phone with an app to learn French.
Next morning when I walked into my office, the receptionist smiled routinely at me – “Bon jour, Comment Ca va?”. “Ca va bien”, I replied back as I strode in.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based out of Bangalore, Siddharth is a Telecommunication Engineer by profession. Loves travelling, reading, exploring, dreaming and being an eternal sports enthusiast.