Language Barrier

First things first, Happy Birthday Camille! Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. Milou, you’ll get a shout out in a couple days. Dustin, you’re S.O.L for six months. For those confused, Camille, Milou, and Dustin are my siblings, and my little sis turns 19 today. I almost forgot, but fortunately, while sitting at lunch in Guatemala this afternoon, one of the Canadian women, Kara Zakrewski (sorry if I butchered it), asked how old my sister is now. After considering when her last birthday was for a couple seconds – Oh! Her birthday’s today. So Camille, you can thank Kara for the shout out. Not really on topic, but family comes first.

I consider myself bilingual, though I don’t have a certificate. I took French immersion all the way through until the eleventh grade. My mom, Mylène, was brought up in a French speaking household, and made sure that all of my siblings at least began our education in immersion. All but Milou, the oldest, switched out of it before graduating, making her the only one of us who is formally recognized as bilingual. But that doesn’t stop mom from speaking to us in French when there’s company over so that they can’t understand. Plus you can’t win the World Francophone Games if you can’t speak French, right? Wrong, Jessi doesn’t speak a lick of French, but if anyone asks it’s true. Hence my self declaration of bilingualism.

Then we get to a place like Guatemala, where the majority of people speak Spanish, and it’s back to square one. I try to make sure I learn how to say hello (hola), goodbye (hasta luego), yes (si), thank you (gracias), and the numbers 1-10 (uno – diex) in every country that I visit. Then I try to pick up the rest from there with very little success. Fortunately, Jessi gets us by. He knows Portuguese, which is very similar to Spanish. French has a few similarities, but I can only catch a few words here and there. Often I find myself communicating with locals through the universal language of hand gestures and facial expressions. It must look pretty funny to see two people who don’t understand each other try and get a point across. Almost like a very strange dance, possibly the inspiration for Jessi’s girlfriend, Dianne’s, very unique “Awkward Dancing” technique. I might have to get a video of it up here sometime for the world to see if she’ll let me.

I’m very fortunate that the Universal Language of Sport is English, because that means there will always be a translator to help out. Though it’s even hard to understand them sometimes, not for lack of effort, but some people struggle with the differences between the languages. When we all went swimming with dolphins in the Cayman Islands a few weeks ago, the trainer could not pronounce the letter B. I tried coaching him to pronounce my name correctly, but it always came out “Ven”. After about two minutes of trying to get it right, he announced “It’s ok, I call you Matteo”. Close enough I guess.

I really enjoy the fact that I can speak two languages, but I always wish I knew one more whenever I’m around a new one. But with so many different languages around the world, I don’t think I will ever be able to learn them all. If someone ever does, my hat is off to them. I only hope that by the end of my playing career, I will be able to say thank you to all my different fans all over the world. But for now,

Hasta Luego, Au revoir, Auf Wiederzein, Ciao, Sayanora, Cheers

Ben Jammin

P.S. Just a reminder, the first all request Saturday is coming up. So far I don’t have many questions to answer. Even if it’s just mom and dad asking for now, I hope to be able to answer something, or I might have to change the theme for Saturdays.


  1. It is true that there is a frequently neglected aspect of enjoying and learning from travel - the language barrier.

    I recommend Esperanto as a way of overcoming that barrier. I have had the privege of staying in the homes of ordinary people in many countries thanks to Esperanto. There is a service, similar to Servas, called Pasporta Servo, which facilitates vists to people's homes if you know the planned language, for example.

  2. you should have said goodbye...

  3. Ola hijo mio. Soy en Mexico ahora entonces hablo en espagnol. Mi pregunta para tu Sabado requisito es: Jo sais que tu nomalmente adivinar que es el mejor competicion para cada tournamiento. Que piensas par esta competicion. Los Mexicanos premiere tambien, ou outros?? Su padre.

  4. Good job Ben and Jesse! Keep it up! Top four that's excellent! C'est l'anniversaire te ton autre soeur aujourd'hui. Elle a 25 ans. Dis-lui un petit bonjour du Guatemala. I see your father is jumping right in with his Spanish which he still seems to mix with French a bit but he is getting his point across at least. Buena suerte y piensa de manera positiva y puede ganar! Hasta luego! mom