Recently, we received this story from a 20-something exchange student from Iran studying in the United States.
He shares this language barrier experience in present-tense coming straight from an email he sent to friends immediately after this occurred.
“Tonight as I was driving back home, I saw that a car was hit by another car and there was a lady lying on the ground. Blood had covered her face and she was surrounded by two other guys. One of them was holding her head in his hands.
I decided to pull over. I went to her promptly.
First thing I did was trying to talk to her to see what she needed and what parts of her body hurt the most. But she couldn’t talk.
I was kind of shaky and queasy first when I saw her. So I started searching the car for her phone to call someone that hopefully knows her. But I couldn’t find it.
Then police stopped me and stated, “it’s our business to take care of this!” and they didn’t allow me to search the car. As I was about to leave, a firefighter came to me and asked whether I can speak any languages besides English.
I said yes, I can speak Farsi.
“Are you from Iran ma’am?” I asked her.
She barely could talk, but, miraculously, she said, “YES”.
I could see hope in her eyes when she realized I’m Persian too and yet someone can understand her in that situation. Police and firefighters used me as a translator to ask her their questions. She held my hand firmly and looked into my eyes. I could feel that she wanted to show her appreciation and that was nice of her.
I went with her to the local hospital and did the same thing there, translating. I was helping when one of her friends arrived at the hospital. She asked me what had happened and I explained everything to her. Then she thanked me and asked me to go home. She told me the lady moved to the US just three months ago, and my presence there helped her a lot. I assume she was not a native speaker of English.
Even though I saw blood and someone not in a good shape tonight, I feel very good right now.
This is the feeling you get when you help someone. I consider that as my human responsibility.”
We are grateful for this man’s courage to assist in an emergency. There are times when a native speaker can help, but many times when this is not the case.