It’s not always easy to become friends with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you. But it can definitely be worth it.
The story of Allisen and Chunhua is strongly based on an experience I had in 2010, when a young girl from Japan came to live with my neighbors for a couple months. She started out speaking almost no English, and I wasn’t sure how she was going to be able to play with us and participate in neighborhood games. But we found things we all liked to do (such as bouncing on the trampoline and making crafts), and modified some of our games (such as changing “Ghost in the Graveyard” to “Ghost yard” so it was easier to remember and say). The more she hung out with us, the more English she learned. I thought it was so cool when I told her the story of how we’d gotten our dog, and she understood it! I also remember climbing a giant dirt pile with her and my little brother, and we were pretending certain parts of the dirt pile were our houses and going over to “visit” each other. On her last night in the United States, she and my brothers and I all played interactively with my old dollhouse. She became a really great friend, and I was sad when she left.
If there’s someone in your school or your neighborhood who doesn’t speak your language, don’t write them off as a potential friend. Get to know them, what they like and what they’re interested in. There are lots of activities you can participate in without speaking the same language—art, sports, listening to music, eating, dancing, taking silly selfies, teaching each other words and phrases… the language will eventually come, and in the meantime, a lot of bonding can occur even when there’s very little speaking. Don’t underestimate the power of a smile and an invitation to join in.