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What it Feels Like to Not Speak English in an English World

Long story short: not good.

It was my first day of first grade, and I was attending a new school, which meant I was also riding the school bus for the very first time. I knew zero English, but, surely, the bus driver knew where I lived, right?

The drive from the bus stop to school was fine, but, the ride back home? Not so much.

Because I was a first-grader, my homeroom teacher had me wear a tag with my name and home address on it. I wasn't worried though because I wasn't the only kid from my bus stop.

However, as the bus approached my stop, and before I knew what was going on, all the older kids from my stop started to stand up and get off. By the time I made it to the front of the bus, the bus driver had already shut the door.

She spoke no Spanish. I spoke no English. I remember pointing to my house, but she didn't understand pointing either.

She kept driving.

Every kid got off the bus, and I was the only one left.

I was panicking. I kept showing her my tag, but she kept speaking English and driving the wrong way.

Eventually, I realized she was taking me back to school.

It was awful. I felt judged. I felt isolated. I was embarrassed, I was frustrated, and I was scared. I had no idea how my mom would find me. By the time my mom picked me up, I was sobbing uncontrollably.

Maybe that's not how everyone who doesn't speak English feels, but that's how I felt when I was 6.

Had the bus driver actually made an effort to understand what I was trying to tell her by pointing at my house and my address tag, I would have made it home as originally planned. But, her attitude towards my inability to speak her language was quite antagonizing.

The problem wasn't necessarily that we both spoke different languages. The problem was that we failed to communicate by refusing to understand each other.

Thanks for stopping by! Leave a comment if you've had a similar experience. Subscribe for more and share if you'd like. Additionally, let me know if there's anything you'd like me to write about.

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