It was a hot and stifling night. As I lay drifting off to sleep, my mind wandered back to my home in Japan and the life of a young lady. One day she met a young American soldier. The more he talked, and the more she listened, the more fascinated she became with his language and with him. They dated, and the fascination grew much stronger. She understood English well enough, that when he finally got around to asking for her hand in marriage, she was able to accept.
They ended up moving to America, to Ohio specifically, and though she was living a dream, she was so utterly alone. She didn’t know a soul, and the language was so hard to master. Understanding what was said was easy, but mastering the skill of speaking the language and gathering her thoughts was very difficult.
The conversations between her and her husband were nonstop. Whenever she asked her husband if she was saying things correctly, he would say, “You are doing just fine.” He never bothered to correct her, so she never knew the difference. She knew she wanted to go to college, so she knew she had to master English.
She loved learning, so she seized any opportunity to learn and to speak English. She found herself being uncomfortable speaking on the phone. She couldn’t understand the accents of some of the Americans with whom she spoke. She avoided phone calls as much as she could. She would be so embarrassed because she would ask them to repeat what they said over and over until she could hear the frustration in their voices. And it wasn’t just her; it was hard on them, also, because they could not understand her, either. The frustration went both ways. From that moment on, she decided that if she had to talk to someone, it would be face to face.
After learning some English, she thought it was time for her to find a job. That was an eye opener. Nowadays they do applications on the internet, and the first contact interviews are done over the phone. Her level of anticipation and nervousness rose tremendously. She would just about beg them to meet with her in person for an interview. At least then she could make hand gestures to get her point across. She knew that she could make hand gestures when speaking to people, and it would help her get her point across. One of her biggest fears was putting her thoughts into words. She knew what she wanted to say, but getting it to come out right and finding the right words to convey her message was very difficult. She continues to learn every day, and her English and her level of confidence is getting stronger.
As the morning sun rises, the sun shines through the window, and I can smell the coffee brewing downstairs. I woke up thinking, “I wish could remember that dream. It was about a different time when I still dreamed in Japanese. Well, maybe another time, I’m off to class now to learn more.”
-As told to Stephanie Mosley, Student Writer
This story originally appeared in Facing Hope, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Georgia Highlands College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and Berry College in Rome, Georgia.