Saturday, April 4, 2009


Living and working in a country when your grasp of the language is several city blocks short of fluent is hard. It's hard on the Salvadorans who need to communicate with me, and it's hard on me. A friend who has learned English as a second language (and is now fluent) said that in earlier years talking English for any length of time made her very tired. At the end of any extended communication (or miscommunication) I feel wrung out, sweaty, exhausted. All my brain cells have been working overtime to produce results that are so much less agile than I'd like them to be.

Like any native speaker, I'm used to opening my mouth and having my own language roll out without much need for conscious thought or effort. In Spanish, at this stage, I stumble and bumble.

My friend Pat - a language teacher - reminded me that plateaus are a natural part of the learning process, and not a sign that I'm stuck forever. I know this, at least intellectually, but I'm eager for the work of May, when I will be studying Spanish for 4 weeks in Antigua Guatemala. Hope to reach a plateau a little higher than the one I'm now stuck on.

Being a language learner when you have to depend on your very imperfect grasp of the new language to meet your daily needs and talk to people is a humbling and spiritually potent experience. It's an experience of powerlessness, inability. Something I am honored to share with immigrants in my native land.

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