|Thanks for your impeccable Spanish skills, Maddie!|
The point being, trying to speak a foreign language does make you feel stupid, embarrassed, and the butt of many a joke (and trust me, I was. I once blurted out some unintelligible question at a restaurant and when prodded to repeat I just froze like a deer in headlights, didn't say another word, turned around, and made my friend take over). It's like doing anything as a novice in front of seasoned professionals: singing, dancing, cooking, anything. So why should we try? There are a lot of Guatemalan English speakers that would love to accept your money in return for relaying meeting notes to you. Aaron Ausland of Staying for Tea offers this poignant response,
"Because language is a bit like food. People just love it when you make an effort to eat their food...I was talking with some community volunteers who were recalling the last time they had an American visit their village from World Vision. "Hey, do you know so-n-so?" they asked me, a bit naïve to the size of my organization. But, in fact I did know this person. "He's such a great guy!" they exuded. "Why do you say that?" I asked, curious. "He ate everything we gave him," one exclaimed. And the rest all nodded vigorously and happily at this. "Do you know who this man was?" I asked, pressing the point a bit. They recalled that he was an American and from World Vision and again applauded his culinary enthusiasm. What they didn't recall about this person was that he was the International President of World Vision.
What left a lasting impression on these folks was not the man’s position, but his willingness to lift his fork and dive into their culture. He embraced part of what defined them without hesitation or judgment. He received from them without turning up his nose at what they had to offer. Language is a bit like this. A willingness to learn and use even a few words demonstrates a willingness to be vulnerable and to make an effort to accept and use what is local. It recognizes that you are the visitor and honors your host."
|Olga & Jose are learning their third language!|
The good news? Learning a new language can stave off alzheimers!
Till next time,