Growing up, I often wondered what it would be like to visit a foreign country? What is it like to hear everyone speaking a language or dialect I can’t understand? I no longer have to wonder. I wandered into my local Walmart last night and listened, you would have thought I had channeled Rip Van Winkle and had woken up in Costa Rica. Everyone around me was speaking in Spanish. Call a customer service line anytime and you’ll be speaking to someone who barely grasps their own language let alone yours. Stay at a hotel anymore and the official scent of the lobby seems to be curry. Even in places you’d never imagine like the town of Manchester, New Hampshire, 82 separate languages are spoken daily in one school.
Picture the first day of class. The new little first grade teacher fresh out of college is brimming with confidence. She awaits her first class with a few jitters. She welcomes each child; Amal, Maria, Muhammad, Tia, Barclay, Ephraim, Ling, to name a few. As she surveys the room she has one overwhelming thought, “I’m not teaching, I’m managing the United Nations.”
As a matter of inclusivity, I know her prevailing thought has to be, ” I hope I don’t have to sample all my children’s lunch boxes; camel milk and Kimchi taken together has to be explosive.” As I grasp this influx of foreigners, I assume our language must be down right daunting for them. Imagine as a first time immigrant reading this next sentence, “It’s apparent that to be a parent, nothing’s apparent. Makes perfect sense right? And how does one use the words: their, there, and they’re?
In many countries it is customary to have pictures instead of words on food labels. Thus a picture of a carrot or a potato means that’s the ingredient. I can picture a new immigrant walking down the baby food aisle and seeing a little jar of the smiling Gerber baby on it and letting out a blood curtling scream. At the height of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze, the movie characters who lived underground, were crime fighters. On a pizza box featuring these same Ninja Turtles some years ago, I saw the words emblazoned on the package, “Straight from the sewer to you.” I’m confident that any new American who read that box while they ate, must have completed their round of therapy by now.
I’m not planning a visit or mission trip to any foreign country. My mission in life is set. I’m going to stand in the grocery store aisle and help our new Americans read food labels. They need to be apprised that polish remover doesn’t eliminate people from Poland, nor can you spread KY jelly on toast. Oh and get the word out, facial tissue and toilet water do have a dual application. No really!