TNC compares learning French to surviving a rough neighborhood:
Violence was a language in the crack era. I have never, in my life, been as scared as I was on the first day of middle school. What petrified me was that the boys–most of whom were older–spoke the language of violence. Violence shaped how they walked. Violence shaped who they walked with. Violence shaped when they laughed and what they laughed at. Violence shaped how they wore their Starter caps. Violence told them when to give dap and when to give the ice-grill. It was an entire range of cues, an intricate dance, all designed to either protect your person, or dramatize the effort.