I hope I’m making a difference here. I hope I’m doing what god wants me to do. I sit here now by the beach under the trees, cooled by the breeze and I have to luxury to take some time to pray and reflect. I pray that God is using me for his purpose here. Being here now for a little over 3 months I can tell you that the ‘romance’ of living in a new place has worn off. I am not captivated by every little thing or excited for every new adventure the way I was the first few months. Don’t get me wrong, I still love this place, I’m still thankful to be here and God still arrests me with the beauty of things that I run into. But it’s just become more of a reality and less of a dream or honeymoon.
I’m thankful for the humility and the patience I am learning right now. I feel like I live in a constant state of now knowing what’s going on. And for a guy who’s a control freak, that’s no fun at all. I struggle to keep up with language. I struggle to listen and speak to people. Half the time I’m talking to people I’m not even trying to translate what they are saying to me because I’m too busy trying to translate in my head what I want to say to them! And then other times I don’t even want to talk to anyone because I actually know how to say what I want to say, but I have no idea how or if I’ll be able to respond to what they say back to me.
The more I learn about Spanish, the more I see how much I truly have learned in my time here so far but I also see deep well of Spanish learning that still lies before me. I know people who have lived in the field for 4, 6 or 10 years and they still struggle and still have to work with their Spanish, just at different levels. That encourages me because it makes me selfishly glad to know that they struggle but it also discourages me to know that they have been here this long and STILL have problems with their second language. I here people often ask or say that after a certain amount of time you will be ‘fluent’ in your second language. The definition of fluent is ‘to be able to express oneself easily and articulately.’ I think that’s a flat out lie and a joke. Most of the folks who say this, usually from no fault of their own, have never learned or don’t do much with another language. Unless you are one of those lucky kids who grew up in a bilingual home, you will struggle in someway with a language that isn’t your ‘native tongue.’ It won’t be as nature for you to communicate certain things. You will always have to process a little more in conversations. You won’t be able to just ‘be yourself’ and have casual conversation with friends. There will always be greater room for miscommunication and misunderstanding with a second language. I think it’s better to say that with much time, practice, application and patience, you can get more proficient at your second language, but fluency will never be technically achieved.
At the same time, I appreciate this struggle to communicate. It has humbled me and forces me to relax, to rely upon others, to ask for help, to trust others and to not be so hard on myself. I don’t necessarily like being the person in charge, BUT I do like being able to help and being able to know what’s going on. In this murky stage of being able to communicate slightly in another language, both of those things are also thrown out the window. I rely on others to tell me what to do and what has been communicated. Even when I think I understand what was said and what it’s intent was, I still ask because I don’t’ trust that I have translated it correctly. I’m constantly learning to have more patience with things that just seem to be last minute or spur of the moment… when in fact they are things or events that were discussed and planned, sometimes with me sitting right there, but I had no clue what was said and therefore didn’t know what was coming.
Honestly, if I am real with myself and with you, I REALLY don’t like things like that. I take it way too personally when I feel I have been left out of a conversation or not included in a decision. This is a hard truth that God started knocking me over the head with a few years ago. I’m grateful that He continues to show me grace and helps me to grow more like him and less like myself. I don’t want to take things so personally because honestly it’s not that fun! And who am I that I should be personally insulted when miscommunication happens, whether intentionally or unintentionally. I’m not really that big of a deal and my life is so much more free, fun and alive when I remember that. I don’t want to be the big deal! I want to always be reminded and help remind others that Jesus is the big deal!
And so at the end let me just sum this up by saying that my attitude towards Spanish right now is one of several emotions: I’m frustrated and discouraged but I’m hopeful for the future and encouraged by the patience and grace that I have already been shown. When people want to be your friend, sometimes it doesn’t matter to them if you can’t speak the language, they accept you anyway. I’m excited to grow these friendships deeper and deeper as my Spanish gets better and better. This is just another way that God is graciously reminding me that life isn’t about me. I want to be reminded of that every day, no matter how tough it is.