Languages,  Madrehood,  Multiculturalism

Love and Language Barriers

I finally worked up the courage to ask my coworker out. We worked at the same restaurant. He washed dishes and I bussed tables. During the dinner rushes I wanted to say hello, not just drop dirty plates at his station. Even if he could hear me over the chefs yelling and music blasting, he never responded.

That night our manager finished closing and the servers busied themselves with tidying up their work areas. As the busser I could leave after making sure the dining room looked presentable. I hung around after I cleaned all the booths because I wanted to get to the bottom of why the dishwasher never talked to me. Heart pounding, I headed his way.

“Hey,” I had to shout over running water and clanging porcelain. The dishwasher looked up. I asked for his name and he lifted his finger as if to say “wait a sec.” His slipped off one of his latex gloves to punch some words into his phone before handing it over. Google Translate filled the screen, blaring the following text:

Hi my name is Javier and I'm from Mexico. Sorry I don't speak English

“Oh, have you been to the Mall of America yet?” I asked. Javier smiled awkwardly. Right, he doesn’t understand me. I fumbled with his phone’s keypad to get my message across. The voice in Google Translate reached his ears. He started nodding.  

Recalling the very little Spanish I knew, I said, “Vamos?” Javier nodded again but then typed in, “When are you free?”

Shoot. I didn’t know my days of the week in Spanish very well. Moreover, I wanted to talk to Javier, not his phone. I had to rely on his phone to make sure we could set up a date. On our that first date we mainly exchanged our phones back and forth to communicate with each other. It was a lot of work. A lot of gesturing. Laughter. The whole time I kept grinning like an idiot in love. In fact, I did fall in love.

Two years, a wedding, and a baby boy later, we’re still learning how to love and through the language barrier. Google Translate occasionally helps out but is thankfully no longer a third wheel. Our shared goal involves getting his visa and raising our biracial baby bilingual. More importantly, I want our story to inspire other multicultural families!

Trilingual copywriter and translator raising her biracial baby trilingual. I love raising awareness about diversity in the writing world. I'm also a tea snob who talks way too much.

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