I used to work at a retail clothing store in my early years and would come in contact with many tourists from different countries. They would speak slowly and have a heavy accent that garbled their sentences. They seemed uneducated. My associates would grow impatient and rudely rush them on. I’m not saying that I never fell pray to the “Ugly American” persona, but more often than not, I played role of the spectator. Having the opportunity to live in different countries where my mother taught English as a side job, I knew how hard it was for others to learn our language (something I’m still trying to do too!).
The experience that brought this home for me was when I participated in a study abroad to central/meso-America. This was an awkward match for me- being a Frenchie and all, and knowing very VERY little Spanish. I had a Spanish speaking friend with me or my Spanish booklet on me at all times. I was very surprised how patient and kind the natives treated me, even when I slaughtered my requests for the bathroom. They were always impressed with my effort to learn their language.
The struggle I went through with improper verb conjugations and poor wording made me respect foreign tourists for how much they DID know and how brave they were to speak. Even though this happened years ago, I still want others to know of my experience, and to take away the same message I did: empathy.