Saturday, 19 September 2009

Me No Speakey: That Beloved Language Barrier

I am uniligual, through and through. I know a paltry amount of words from a paltry amount of languages, predominantly to the level of "Hi" and "Bye", which means my international conversational skills are limited at best.

Now, London Arts colleges have an effect on internationally based students of attracting them over to Blighty with their bright lights and lingua franca; most UK-based Arts students get accommodation within their Uni (or at least, within halls very closely associated with their Uni) and internationals are placed in privately owned ones (again, gross generalisation, but to be any more accurate would require pie-charts and slideshows, neither of which you nor I have the patience for). Opal 4, my new residence, is a privately owned hall-of-residence, and it's listed as mainly for UAL (Uni of the Arts, London) students.

As a result, most of the tenants are from abroad and study the arts. Makes sense, right?

But this results in an unavoidable, natural inclination for people to group together and hang around with other fellow countrymen; most of the French people now know each other and hang about together, quite a few people from China have found each other, a vast collection of Eastern Europeans are in attendance, as well (and since their languages are quite closely related, they eke out a rapport instantly).

I feel like a foreigner in North London. Everyone speaks French. And the worst thing is when people I'm talking to, and hanging around with decide that something must be said, but only in French; they laugh, they chat, I sit there with a goofy smile on my face trying to follow along and failing miserably. It's dire, but I hope it improves. I'm just afraid that, with the necessity of English everywhere outside halls, people will decide that Opal 4 is now the place to share home-truths in mother-tongues.

English for business, everything else for fun.

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