Language Barriers In Weddings
Anh Nguyen, Grade 11
It was a joyful, marvellous, flamboyant event. The atmosphere was swathed in happiness and celebration. Everyone was in high spirits and an elated mood – a mood that I did not feel.
There was a sense of anticipation in the air, as everyone sat on the edge of their seats listening to the low and dignified voice of the pastor echoing up into the church’s high vaulted ceiling, waiting for the knot to tie.
Lost in a sea of white gowns, suits and formal attire, I was unidentifiable; a small lonely figure that watched on in silence. Sounds and laughter erupted all around. Everyone rushed to the young bride and groom who were beaming with joy and happiness. Their eyes lit up like stars in the cool night sky, full of hopes and dreams for the future to come. Behind the towering bodies that were pushing and shoving one another aside in hopes of sharing the same limelight as the newlyweds, I was invisible, unnoticed and mute to those around. Left on the outskirts of the tightly packed circle of gushing mothers and beaming family members of both bride and groom, I was like a stray puppy; lost and unwanted.
The bitter taste of alienation rose to my tongue; a sense of foreignness that was becoming all too familiar to me. Awkwardly I circled the room, pretending to be interested in the smooth white walls of the church and the golden candle stands radiating warm yellow light. All around me talking and laughter could be heard, but I understood none of it. Occasionally I thought I could pick up a few simple questions and answers of “yes” or “no”, but the rest of the dialogue was lost as incomprehensible, foreign noise.
Somehow I found myself at the spacious entrance of the church. Rows of polished wooden benches are laid out in two columns: the left and the right. The left was where the bride’s family sat, including myself, and the right was the groom’s family. By now everyone has dispersed into their own groups of friends and family, talking amongst themselves. Different languages were spoken by everyone. I could pick up the familiar intonations of my own language and some barely registered English.
A tap on my shoulder brought my attention to a kind, ageing face of a woman in her 50s. Unrecognisable sounds were spoken to me through thin red lips. I could tell that she was asking a question, but I could not comprehend. Reluctantly I opened my mouth to reply. I had two options: “yes” or “no”. I went with “yes” and the woman responded with more foreign words. Once again the game of pick-a-blind-reply played on until my father found me surrounded by elderly ladies and steered me away.
Later, my father told me that at the end of the day, the pastor had asked me jokingly:
“Your dress is as beautiful as a bride’s. Tell me, is this your wedding?”
“Yes” had been the reply.