I have never been particularly good at language. Even after living in Italy for six months, my proudest moments were the first five minutes of a conversation before any given person realized I wasn't Italian. After about five minutes--when we exhausted the simple pleasantries--there was always that moment where it would dawn on them "hey, this guy isn't from around here". I was proud of those first five minutes. I'm not even anywhere near that; I've only been here for three months. Of course, such a moment isn't even possible in Cameroon with me sticking out like a sore thumb, but you get the picture. Oh right, I'm also learning two languages at once.
And here is a kicker: I am learning Fulfulbe THROUGH French. It isn't as if I have an English speaking teacher. No, when something is too complex to explain in Fulfulbe (at this point: everything), it is explained in French. One of the strangest moments of my life was when I realized this. In my frustration, it dawned on me that I couldn't understand the French that was supposed to explain the Fulfulbe. Then the world felt like it was crumbling around me as I lost grip on reality and plummeted into hysterical laughter at the shear ridiculousness of my life.
So that's fun.
One more thing I didn't mention: everyone who speaks French here learned it as a second language. Just like me. That means two people are trying to communicate in languages that they learned later in life. These are also the people I am learning French from. To say my French needs polishing is a gross understatement.
It is hard to imagine. I have trouble coming to terms with it and I live it every day. There are people I just simply can't talk to that I see every day. A whole lot of them. Add a pinch of cultural misunderstanding and you could drive a man insane.
Luckily I have myself to talk to.