Language

Eka Leps

Immigrated from Telavi, Georgia

December 16, 2019

Ms. Leps came from Telavi, Georgia (the country) in 2005, with no English. Georgia is a small country near Russia; she speaks Russian as her second language. I met her outside of My sister’s modern dance class, where her own daughter also dances. We chatted as we watched them bend over, spin and roll about on the floor. She seemed a little nervous, as if she wasn’t sure I would be able to understand her. She came to the U.S. because of her husband’s work. Coming here with no English was challenging, she took English Classes at LACC, but still speaks with a strong accent. When I was talking to her, we both often had to repeat something several times. My mom, who was standing nearby sometimes acted as a kind of translator, making what I was saying, into a shorter more concise version. Sometimes her daughter translates for her. Her daughter acts as a bridge helping her with English and introducing her to people. Her first-time meeting new people in the U.S. was at her daughters’ school, where she was the first parent (along with her husband) from Georgia, which was lonely. She didn’t know anyone there. Communicating with other parents was challenging, since she didn’t know much English, and it was challenging for people to understand what she was saying.

Everything was hard

Everything was a surprise. The climate, the people, communication, everything was surprising. An Afterschool teacher offered her and her family tickets to Disneyland. She wasn’t sure if he was serious or not, asking him to clarify would have only made it more confusing. A few days later he gave her the passes, and she was surprised all over again. He had been serious. She was constantly being surprised by how kind, and welcoming people could be. She talked about her native language, as if talking about an old friend, telling me how old it was, and how hard it was to pronounce. It was as if to say to every English word she had ever mispronounced. ‘I can speak another language; you are conquerable.’ She often visits her mom, who lives in Georgia, and is her only other relation. It’s hard being so far from your home, in a different place, where you are alone. Language is a big part of her life, one language ties her to her home, and the other ties her to where her family lives.