Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why Don't They Just Learn....

My first Spanish class was in Irving, Texas at the park district, with a teacher had two thick grey pigtails. She was named María and she spoke English with a beautiful accent and a big smile. She was from Brazil and her first language was Portuguese. I had learned a tiny bit of Spanish prior to that from a sort of homeschool swap that my mom did, perhaps in exchange for babysitting, from a woman named Lisa who was married to a man from Madrid. Lisa came over a few times, and told us fairy tales using puppets, all in Spanish. She also taught us a supersticious but catchy rhyme for helping kids believe their boo-boos were all better:

Cura sana,
Colita de rana,
Si no se cura hoy,
Se curará mañana.

It sounded just like some kind of alchemist's chant or witch's incantation. I don't remember anyone ever using the rhyme on an injured kid, but the rhythm and rhyme helped the words stick in my head.

So why start there? Well...why not? We lived in Texas. Spanish was available. Dad said to me, "Learn Spanish and you'll find ways to use it someday." So I started to study.

Twenty four years later, I'm still studying. I learn new Spanish words in many a conversation, even though I'd estimate that I speak Spanish about 30-40% of the time. Whenever I overhear someone say, about someone from another language or culture, "Why don't they just learn [my language, whatever that is]," somewhere deep inside a tiny voice in me pipes up and hollers, "You have no idea." Learning a language, like any skill, requires sacrifice, time, patience, humility, and persistence. I don't know if I have any of those skills in great supply. Maybe you don't know whether you've got them, either.

Mostly what you need is what you already have. Curiosity. A willingness to try. Courage enough to let yourself make mistakes. Confidence to keep trying.

So, why don't you just learn Spanish? I ask myself that every day. Why don't I learn a little bit more today? Yes, I think I will.

Enjoy the journey. Buen viaje...

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