Millions and millions of Americans have either immigrated to the United States or had their ancestors do so. Those immigrants came for many reasons, such as escaping tyranny in their home country, to find a better financial future, or just to seek a better life. Many times, their first experience in the United States was a scary one, arriving with very little money, not knowing a soul, learning a new culture and a new language. For myself, however, coming to America for the first time was a major learning experience. There were episodes that had its embarrassing moments, but were also amusing.
I came to America from Taiwan in November, 2010. In the beginning, my English was not very good and communication was very hard. When talking to others, sometimes, I made mistakes. Such as the time when I decided to go to that famous American fast food restaurant, McDonald’s. I figured, the menu was listed right on top of the register, and that I wouldn’t have much of a problem ordering my food. So I ordered some Chicken McNuggets. So far, so good. Then the employee asked what kind of sauce I wanted, and I replied, “Coke”. Of course, I thought he meant what kind of drink I wanted. He repeated himself, and explained that the McNuggets came with a sauce. So I asked for barbecue, and ordered a Coke as well. Luckily he was able to understand that I didn’t know English very well.
Another time, I was talking to one of my classmates. I couldn’t understand what he was saying and our conversation became very odd. He would say one thing and I would respond with something totally not relevant to our conversation. Then I would do the same. After a while, I would say I’m sorry, then he would say I’m sorry, then I would say I’m sorry again, and on we would go apologizing to each other, four, five times, and we didn’t even know what we were apologizing for. Just like with the McDonald’s employee, my classmate was nice enough to understand that I didn’t know English very well, and was patient with me.
However, a third miscommunication with the English language didn’t prove so positive for me. The first time I went for a driving test, I was very nervous, like a lot of people are. But things were going well until I drove the car into a left turn only lane, and asked the proctor if he wanted me to turn left. The proctor said, “Right”, as if he were agreeing with me. Only, I thought he meant that he wanted me to turn the car in a right direction, so I did so. In the end, I failed the test. Part of me wishes that the proctor had said, “Correct” instead of “Right”, but I should have known to ask him to repeat the request.
I am lucky that I live in a time when people are very understanding when they meet someone who is new to the country and doesn’t speak very good English. In the past, many immigrants were taken advantage of, or mistreated very badly, because they weren’t natives of the country and stood out. I can look back at my problems with miscommunication with a smile, because the people I was communicating with were very understanding. That is one of the many things I like about the people of the United States. They are kind and patient and always willing to help someone in need. Except when you are taking your driving test.