The Sound of Language

The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi Read Free Book Online

Book: The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi Read Free Book Online
Authors: Amulya Malladi
Tags: Fiction, Literary, General, Contemporary Women, Cultural Heritage
conversation is going to change anything? They need counseling, Christina, not us meddling.”
    And ultimately Ole was right. Ester continued to tell Christina about the atrocities they had faced in Iran and Christina continued to feel helpless. It seemed to Christina that Ester believed Christina could help if she only told her more and more —as though she had to convince Christina that they were worth helping. But there was really nothing Christina could do aside from listening.
    The job that she had been so passionate about started to become a nightmare as Christina found herself increasingly wrapped up in Ester and Maher's troubles. It was not until Maher and Ester moved to Copenhagen the next year that Christina realized the impact they had had on her life. She had become deeply depressed. She and Ole finally decided it would be best if she quit.
    Now Christina wondered about the past life of all her students. There was the young boy from Sri Lanka, the thin dark woman from Somalia —almost everyone in her class had left their countries to save their lives. Christina worried about them.
    But Sylvia Hoffmann didn't accept Christina's resignation. Christina was not the first teacher at the language school who had gotten dragged into a student's life and felt helpless.
    “Teach them Danish. That is the best you can do. Don't try to fix their lives, you can't,” she said. “The best you can do is helping them get on their feet. Don't talk to them about their past; you can't help them put their past to rest. If they need help, they need to see a therapist.”
    “But I want to help them,” Christina had pleaded.
    “You can't,” Sylvia said. “Give it another six months. If you're still not happy here, then you can leave.”
    It had seemed cold then, but now after almost fifteen years in the language school, it was advice that kept Christina sane. However, once in a while, she would meet a student who tugged at the heartstrings and she would find herself getting involved in his or her life.
    Each time it happened, she would promise it was the last, and each time Ole would wait for it to happen again. He had stopped chastising her about getting involved with her students.
    With Raihana it was different, Christina was sure. Raihana had told her nothing, burdened her with no details. Christina was just trying to help a young immigrant woman. This was the first time in her years at the language school that Christina had met a single woman from Afghanistan and she was impressed with how quickly Raihana was picking up Danish.
    Christina thought she was ready to pass module 2 and go into module 3 and she had only been at the school for four months. Christina was convinced that working with Gunnar would teach Raihana more Danish than gossiping with other Afghans in Dari while cleaning a grocery store or office building. Granted, Gunnar wasn't the most talkative person she knew, but he and Raihana would have to converse with each other in Danish and that would be enough.
    Christina took Raihana to meet her new employer on a bright spring day. Layla didn't come along with them and Raihana was nervous. Christina spoke Danish slowly and Raihana understood about a third of what she said; the rest went over her head. Christina had a black car that smelled of cigarettes on the inside and the ashtray was smudged with ash. Raihana knew Christina smoked, had seen her go in and out of the teachers’ smoking lounge downstairs.
    “His name is Gunnar Sandberg,” Christina told Raihana again. She was repeating herself, which was a good thing, Raihana thought, because she understood just a little more each time.
    “Gunnar Sandberg,” Raihana repeated.
    “Nat,” Christina said. “Gunnar Sandberg.”
    Raihana thought she was saying it right but she never quite did. It was agonizing because she couldn't hear the difference. The words sounded the same to her.
    “Hvor gammel han , how old is he?” Raihana asked.
    “Hmm … he took

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