Language Barrier

So far, life in Geneva was hell. I hated it. What a contrast from ironically wanting to escape Africa to come and live in the promised land of Switzerland. I was struggling mainly with the language, although acceptance too. I was terrible and everyone knew it. Also, I started to realise I was being treated different only because of the colour of my skin. What I struggled the most was the language. What was clear also, my mum and sister adapted well in Geneva so far compared to my dad and myself. At least he spoke French, which wasn’t the case for me yet. You see, there is a massive difference when you’re learning a language, where it is all broken down and translated, than when you are thrown in the mix and expected to pick up quickly. In class, all the tasks, reading and even the teacher only spoke in French. You’d think, well I would pick up. It wasn’t as easy as that. When nothing is broken down, no visuals and the teacher who already couldn’t stand me, it was very hard for me to pick up. I couldn’t associate my Portuguese to French. Sensing my frustration, my mum and dad took over and taught us French. I learned much more outside the classroom than in class. The book that helped me so much, is the first thousand words in French. At last, visuals and pronunciations.Just like that, I learnt French from scratch and was picking up. At playtime, I would play often with boys because of my aggressive behaviour and overall tough personality. Also, in terms of languages, boys don’t talk as much as girls. Additionally, the boys would use gestures for me to understand what they are saying. In other words, boys were much easier to understand than girls. Even for picture day, I was sat and surrounded by the boys as all the girls were standing together. I wasn’t bothered to be honest. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get on well with girls. I wasn’t on the top set in class nor was I popular. It was strange but this is how it worked, some cliques were forming and you need to be a certain way to be accepted. In my class, I was the only girl then of colour, that was immediately a red flag. I was terrible, aggressive and couldn’t speak the language yet. No wonder why the girls didn’t want to play with me. There was a boy, darker than me whom I despised so much. Surprisingly, even though he was terrible too, he used to get away with it all the time. He would do things when teachers wouldn’t be looking. He was as sneaky as a fox. We clashed often and he used my language barrier against me by saying lies knowing full well I couldn’t defend myself. Of course, to his delight, I would get in trouble frequently thanks to him. We’d fight as well all the time. Once again, I’d be the one who would be in trouble. I was trapped, the boys were the ones I used to hang around with and he was always there, sometimes turning them against me when I didn’t comply. I also wondered how come the teacher who was so horrible to me, would be always nice to him? Curious, I asked my mum why he would get a different treatment. I found out he was adopted by a Swiss couple, both white and both wealthy. It shocked me how we were so similar yet so different: We were both coloured and obviously foreigners in Switzerland. However he was rich and I was poor. His parents always used to spoil him rotten. Now I understood why the teacher treated him so nicely. Jealousy invaded my whole body. I was fuming when he’d make remarks in class to me and many joined. I realised he always used my language barrier against me. I could defend myself with my hands but not with my words resulting in always getting in trouble. He knew that. He just knew how to use my weakness against me. I wish more than anything to have a friend who was like me; coloured and struggling with the language. I knew it wasn’t going to happen. But then, my prayers were answered.

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