Sitting on a park bench, I enjoy the charming Québec City’s automn beauty, my daughters are playing near by. Two chinese tourist ladies are sitting on a bench beside ours, one of them returns my smile and says something that I don’t get.
– Do you speak french? I ask.
She smiles and blushes, no she doesn’t. The very idea that she could speak french seems totally crazy.
– Do you speak english? I ask.
Her face all lights up, she is happy to find at last someone to communicate with.
– Yes, I do, she says, enthusiastically.
She looks like a grand mother, I tell her something about the children joyfully playing. She doesn’t get what I am saying. I repeat, more slowly, using simplier words. She seems to understand. She mumbles back something about the children. We smile to each other. It is a nice day in the old city.
She speaks english all right. But when she speaks english, she has to struggle to have her mouth produce sounds that are akward and alien to her, she has to constantly scan her memory to find the right word and sometimes, the wrong word comes up. She doesn’t understand what one says at first, one has to repeat, words don’t make sense right away. Speaking is so strenuous that she gives up. Speaking english, she experiences all the symptoms of aphasia.
While others are delighted that we have at last a common international language, I wonder if aphasia isn’t the future of mankind.