The motel had visitors who spoke many languages. That has never bothered me. I don’t yet know Spanish, but people may speak without me becoming paranoid. There were people from India and the Middle East, and I had no desire to eavesdrop on their conversations.
There were two dining tables at the motel, and so people share. It is polite to at least acknowledge those you sit next to. This morning, an older woman was seated at the middle of the table, and someone’s things were across from her. I asked if I might sit at the end. She looked at me with surprise and confusion. I said again, “May I sit here?” I could not understand the words of her reply, but she nodded yes. I put down my things and went to get breakfast.
At the counter, an older man was helping a young man with the waffle maker. The man had a southern accent that wasn’t like any I had heard, but he spoke clearly, and I could understand what he was saying. When I turned to put my coffee on the table, I saw that the woman had moved down. I figured she was from another country and found my behavior too aggressive. Lord, I might try to speak with her again.
After I sat down with my scrumptious (sarcasm) breakfast, the man sat opposite the woman. I thought it cute that he had a bride who knew little English. They spoke now and then, but there was no in-depth conversation (you know how older couples get). I wasn’t really paying attention, but then it struck me that he was speaking to her in English, so what was she speaking?
It took great effort for me to finally figure out that she was speaking English, but she had a very different accent. I was immediately taken back to the time when I stopped at a beer tent in Northern Bavaria. When the music stopped and people started talking, I was lost. There were brief glimpses of German, but otherwise, unrecognizable. I gave up trying to figure out what she was saying. It would take more time than I had. Interesting, though.
I enjoyed reading your “continental” breakfast experience. As an international educator, I find myself pining for the sounds of my host country when I am away. During first few months in Shanghai, China, I did not like the sound of the language, and my ears were longing for the much more familiar sounds of Spanish or Arabic (or English). However, when I was back in the U.S. this summer, I found I wanted to jump into every Mandarin conversation I happened to overhear. How respectful of you not to ease drop; I had to remind myself that I wouldn’t dare listen as intently if I heard an English conversation. These cross-cultural experiences are interesting, aren’t they?