For those whose first language is not English, I’m sure you all remember the very first time you had to speak in English. It feels weird, and it’s as if you are becoming a completely different person. Mind you that happens with every new language you learn. But since English is the international language, it’s an experience most people can relate to.
The first time I had to interact with someone in English, I was only six years old. At that time, I didn’t speak any English except saying a few very accented words such as “Hello,” “Yes,” and “No.” However, just from saying a few words, I felt the most badass six-year-old on the planet. Back in the summer of 2000, I had just graduated from kindergarten. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the ceremony for my graduation because my family had to travel to the United Kingdom. At that time, my eldest sister had just graduated from university. Apparently, her graduation was more important than mine, so I flew to London for my first trip abroad.
To be fair, I only remember a few moments from my first trip to the United Kingdom. Most of them are quite silly because I was a child, and children only do silly things. But I remember as a carefree child, I didn’t care about language barriers. Something that now, as an adult, I rarely do without struggling. So, during a shopping spree, my mother and two sisters were at a huge clothing store for hours browsing and trying everything. Shopping was never my favourite thing, and as a child, I was both bored and tired. So somehow, I befriended a little boy who had light blonde hair. At that time, it was something very fascinating to me. Naturally, we started playing and running all over the store. I remember we were both talking in different languages, yet we could easily understand each other. The store was engulfed by our laughter and giggles while playing tag. When I had to leave, I shyly said “Bye, nice to meet you” and gave him a hug.
It has already been twenty years since I met that little blonde boy. His country that felt so different in so many ways has become my own home, and blonde people are not as fascinating anymore. It’s crazy how perspective differentiates everything. Back then, language didn’t matter because, as a child, I didn’t need much to be happy. However, now as an adult, there were many times I couldn’t communicate with the locals verbally, and I struggled greatly to make myself understood. That’s when you realize how pure children’s hearts are.
There were many times I had to speak in English throughout the years. However, another moment I specifically remember clearly was in summer 2008 when I was fourteen years old. I was on holiday at a beach resort in my country alongside my cousins. We used to go to a pool where a Swedish guy was working. Similarly, with the blonde boy in the UK, my cousins and I were fascinated by his blonde hair, height, and facial features. So, our eyes were always following him. But apparently, we weren’t very subtle since one day, he came to talk with us. First of all, I felt surprised that I could understand him clearly, but I was even more astonished that I could easily have long conversations with him. However, I cannot deny that it felt awkward. Also though I was speaking, it felt as if someone else possessed my mind and was trying to be me. Nonetheless, it was an exciting experience. Although it has been more than ten years, I still remember this tall blonde man from Sweden.
It is interesting when you realise how certain things in your daily life were once unknown territory. When I was a child, the only language that I knew was the Greek language, yet I now feel as if I know more English than Greek. I’ve been living abroad for eight years. Thus, English has become my primary language. Furthermore, in Cyprus, we mainly speak in the Cypriot dialect meaning that I rarely speak Greek.
As children, we always hear from our parents or teachers that we need to learn English because it is an international language. Without it, we won’t succeed. Partially it is true because, indeed, English is everywhere. It is the language of technology, politics, and economics. Additionally, as a traveller there are moments, I felt that without English, I wouldn’t have been able to understand the meaning of travelling. Without English, I wouldn’t have been able to meet, talk and hear other people. After all, communication is the key to travelling. Learning and understanding other people’s feelings, cultures, and lifestyles through their stories is the best thing of travelling.
Undoubtedly, English is not the only language or way to create beautiful moments between travellers and locals. Still, it allows us to communicate in a relatively easier way. Surely, personally, I did enjoy a long journey with English, and it feels longer than I initially thought. Interacting with other people from all over the world at a young age was a motivational factor for my teenage self to travel.
Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful day and stay safe:)