Zacko Rightmire, Sophomore, FLIS Major
I am a Foreign Language Major. The language barrier is an obstacle I will face for the rest of my life. Traveling to nearly all 50 states, as well as 11 foreign countries, I have encountered more problems than I can count because of the language barrier. Whether this barrier be in a foreign country, or even a small part of my own town, I have one weapon to combat it: a smile. I believe, that a smile, in any language, means “I love you.”
My Great Aunt, who lives in San Diego, has some trouble getting around. Every year my older brother, mother, and I all go to San Diego to help her out for at least a couple of weeks over the summer. One day, my great Aunt was in dire need of groceries, so we went to the local Asian food market. We arrived at the Pilipino grill, and she recited, in Tagalog, her order. It became very evident that the man did not understand Tagalog. Then we tried English, to no effect. The conversation then slowly devolved into shoulder shrugging and frustrated shouting. My first instinct was to pull my Great Aunt out of the store and continue on with my day. Then, without thinking, I shushed my Great Aunt and smiled at the man. The frustrated scowl vanished from his face, and at that instant I knew that I had dissolved the tension by merely smiling at the man.
Though the grill employee could understand neither English nor Tagalog, he could understand my smile. He understood that I loved and respected him enough as another human being to calm down and resolve the conflict in a civil manner. Following a brief moment of silence, he retrieved his English speaking manager and I placed the order for my still flustered Great Aunt.
On the car ride home, my Great Aunt asked me how I calmed the man down. I told her all I had to do was smile. She then told me words I would remember for the rest of my life. “Even when you were little, your smile was contagious. It made everyone else smile, and it lit up the whole room. Smiling at anybody is as good as telling them you love them, please never forget that.”