I remember one of  the first time I tried speaking in another language other than my own. It was weird and slow and my heart was racing and all I was saying was hello. Just the usual customary greeting Hello, Nice to meet you, My name is Robert. That was all I said and I was stuttering trying to get the pronunciation correct, hoping that I was being understood. The other person spoke English but was of Japanese descent and I was doing my best to sound natural as if I had been doing this all my life. Well, if sounding like a goofball all my life was my goal, then I was spot on.

She was nice and patiently smiled as I struggled to get the words out. She answered me in Japanese and the rest is history. We got married and had 2 kids. No! just kidding. I think she was very understanding and I had told her afterwards how I have been only practicing Japanese in earnest for like 2 months. Funny thing is that even now it takes courage to talk a stranger in a strange language.

In my heart I am kinda shy, and try talking in a foreign language to someone and stress levels go way up. I remember bowing my head as I finished my introduction, it was not out of respect towards the other person but of exhaustion of trying to get the words out. It was like full embarrassment had set in and I was bowing to just avoid the eye contact with the other person.

Another time early in my language learning journey it was with someone who spoke little English and much Japanese.  I was the other way around, very very little Japanese and much English. It was basically the same thing again just saying the same usual introduction. This time it came out a little easier, because I practiced on my own before I chatted with them. The way I remember it their English was good enough for me to understand what they meant. I believe their English was better than my Japanese.

I was able to ask, for example, how do you say happy in Japanese?  She understood and replied ureshii. I later in the conversation said “I am very ureshii to meet you”. Not natural at all, it was some sort Japanglish, or Englishese. I made up these terms just now. Speaking in combination Japanese and English. The thing is that we understood each other and knew what I was doing and it brought a smile to her face. It was cool to make a small connection with a stranger I had just met.

These few first times always started out the same, sweaty palms and racing heart. It went okay I was able to survive the embarrassment. The first time is always hard to not sound like you have a speech impediment. The first time is like a starting point and you can only get better form there.

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