returners, 12

They told him to keep his mouth closed as they passed through the turnstiles, joking that if the museum attendants saw his braces, they would be charged a higher entrance fee. The attendants questioned whether they were really from the country anyway– their clothes always gave them away. Once they spoke to them in the correct language, they were accepted, but the young ones had a hard time responding with the same fluency.

Those moments would continue throughout the month they traveled through the country. It was uncomfortable; while the young ones could understand nearly everything that was being said in their mother tongue, they couldn’t form the words themselves. The older ones chided them for not knowing the language better and laughed at their heavily accented, broken attempts.

It was an extension of the way things were when they were at home. The younger ones had begun to lose their grasp of the language their parents first used with them as they watched more television, as they went to school, as they went out into a world where another language was dominant. It became easier not to try to speak at all than to bear the joking that would occur.

They spoke two languages to each other, one at a time, corrections and questions swinging back and forth between them.

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