¿Cómo se dice…?
One of our most frequently asked questions is “how is your spanish coming?” This is actually a hard question to answer and usually we hesitate and laugh and say “good.” Oh how to unpack that “good.” It’s a tough one. To our Venezuelan friends who ask “Como le va?” regarding our espanol, we usually say “bien….chevere….poco a poco….” (in my head, I think, they must know how it is going!!!)
I know we can be our harshest critics. Most days we are working hard at learning and studying and making an effort to talk as much as we can with the people we meet – whether in the grocery line or in a meeting. We know we have made progress because we are living our lives in spanish. Everything we need to do or want to do, we do in spanish. But that being said, after coming home from a meeting last week, when Chris asked me how it went, I burst into tears. After spending a day with 5 wonderfully patient and kind women, I was so frustrated with my lack of being able to communicate well. I understood almost all (progress!) but I could not put words together fluidly to contribute (in my opinion!). The time actually went really well but it was so hard and humiliating to not be able to communicate the way that I wanted. I know this will be a continual battle for me. People are life-giving to me. Good conversations are life-giving to me. And for the last year and a half, it has been more work and even after that much time, there are days where I still come home exhausted as my brain has been working so hard at listening, understanding, and then responding…
Even though I am impatient with my learning, I am also encouraged. We are slowly getting to know people. We have been meeting with people and asking questions. We are hearing and understanding the stories they share of their lives. So, while I may not be able to respond with the fluidity I would like, our understanding is growing daily and I am so thankful that people are willing to talk slower and use a different word to explain something if we don’t understand. They are so patient and willing to help us.
So, while I may sigh when you ask “how is your spanish coming” as I reply “good”, I am still so incredibly thankful for the gift of being able to learn this language. Today my language tutor was explaining the use of several words to me that in english we only have two choices for. The reason they have so many choices she told me is because they love to express themselves so they’ll use the words for varying degrees of emotion depending on how they feel – even though technically they are similar and could be used interchangeably. This is amazing stuff to me and I love it! My love of learning has totally been inspired as I am a student of this language.
Praying in spanish is perhaps the most difficult for me but as nervous as I am when asked, I am so thankful for how God connects our hearts through His Spirit as we pray. My heart is full even now as I think of my last opportunity to pray for one of the women in our church. My spanish may not have been pretty but my heart was connected to this woman’s, even in spanish, and I was reminded through His Spirit as He filled me afresh in that moment that HE understands my chunky gibberish. I am beyond grateful that He allows me to be here, to learn this language and to know these people.
In language school, we often heard of the stories of the students who were given the gift of language and were able to communicate in an amazing way by the time they left. I have asked God often to give that to us(!) but I am realizing the lessons that I am learning – the joy in the perseverance as I continue to work every day. So I will continue to work and continue to pray that God gives us what we need and that He grows in us fluidity and fluency. And…trust. And the ability to surrender this to Him….after all, its never been all about the spanish.
So if you are wondering, don’t be afraid to ask us how our spanish is going. But please pray for us too as we continue to learn and also that we would be willing to be stretched and make mistakes and laugh and try again.