Bilingual Bowling


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“We are bowling. Bowwwwlllllliiinngggg,” Clementine offered, dragging out the word and making a bowling motion with her hand. “Come bowl with us,” she said to her new friend.

Clementine was attempting to persuade Astrid to join her for a game in the common area. The problem was that Astrid spoke German, and Clementine spoke only English.

Astrid looked confused and perhaps even a bit irritated. She sat at the front of the locked community quietly reading to herself, only looking up when people walked in or out of the door.

The common factor between the two of them, however, was that they were both originally from other countries. Clementine understood this, and did not want Astrid to feel left out.

I watched as Clementine set her walker against the wall and put a hand on Astrid’s shoulder. She was determined to get her new friend to join the rest of the group.

“I know what it’s like to move to a new country. I felt the same way that you feel now when I came here from England,” Clementine explained, ignoring the language barrier.

“But I want you to know that it will be okay. People are nice here and you will make friends!” She went on.

Clementine touched Astrid’s hand. “It will all be okay,” she said.

It was the most touching thing I have seen in a long time.


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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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