Have you been studying a language for a while and still feel there’s a formidable barrier? Do you feel there are layers of difficulty in it you haven’t even scratched? No wonder you and language can’t communicate very well–you barely even know each other! Why don’t you take your language friend out on a date? Attempt to find out its favorite restaurant through a prolonged game of charades and twister, and then give up and take it to your favorite restaurant instead. Language will understand that you did your best, which was slightly less than good enough.
After ordering and waiting a quiet half hour eternity, most of the dinner will be spent immersed in either silence or endless repetition of basic questions regarding each other’s career path, family roots, favorite colors, the weather, etc. Hand gestures provide a poor yet necessary replacement for the lack of mutual understanding, and thus when eating commences and hands are occupied, the conversation will dwindle as each listens to the sound of the other chewing and then swallowing food. You become acutely aware of how bizarre the act of eating is, fascinated by the idea of ingestion.
The food consumed, you will pay the bill and leave the restaurant, both of you secretly desiring for the date to end and be put out of its misery. However, there is still a movie that must be attended, the one you agreed upon while pointing at pictures together on the computer screen. In the darkness of the theatre, you feel the gap between you and language closing a little bit, but this is only because the movie supersedes real interpersonal communication and disguises the crevasse that remains. This fact becomes painfully clear afterwards, when the conversation is limited to asking if the other liked the movie and who they thought was a good actor.
You had wanted to get language’s opinion on the movie’s social commentary and whether or not the director took a reasonable stance, but the words simply are not there. Coming off the high of the interaction-free movie to this point of disenchantment is difficult; you feel it might not work out between you two. As you walk language to the door and say goodbye, you suddenly realize that you have understood a word language said that you didn’t know before the date began.
Rainbows burst out of your skull and your heart leaps in your chest at this morsel of progress as you are once again filled with hope. You get out your phone and use rudimentary pointing and grunting skills to determine the next date time, before vigorously shaking language’s hand goodbye and calling up your friend about the great time you had together. Soon, it seems, you and language will be strolling down tree lined country roads arm in arm, talking about everything from childhood to economic theory and the relation between the two. The future is sweet indeed, you think, just as you remember that you forgot the word you learned.