This Not What I Signed Up For

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“They lied to us!” I boldly exclaimed.  This was the way I began my first public presentation in Spanish before my teachers and classmates as I was concluding my six-week intensive course.  I had decided to study Spanish because I was troubled by the many people I could not help because of my inability to communicate in their language. I entered the course with a great deal of confidence, already having a Masters Degree from an outstanding university, and prepared to master a new language.

As the course started I immediately learned two lessons: this was going to take at least the thirty years I had dedicated to learning English without much success; and this experience would teach me much more than learning another language.

You see when you struggle to say something as simple as “my name is Joe” in a language different than your own, you realize how the billions of people who came and continue to come our incredible country feel when they are thwarted by a language that is not theirs.  I had the advantage of many years in school, unlike my ancestors who, like so many others, made this country their home, without the opportunity of ever being in a classroom. When you cannot communicate the simplest of information you feel isolated and worthless.   I learned that the process of learning a language also makes you humble.  You realize all that you do not know about the languages and cultures of others in this wide world.  For me learning Spanish additionally allowed me to see the kindness of so many people who patiently listened as I struggled to express myself in a foreign language and taught me the correct way to speak.

You can see why I accused my teachers of a lie.  I enrolled to learn Spanish but what I really learned was compassion, humility and the kindness of others.

Do I see the hand of God in my attempt to learn another language?  Not only His hand, but His entire being!  God takes our ordinary experiences and imbues them with lifelong lessons.  Let us rejoice and be glad for the Father of all languages is always helping us learn our way to heaven!

Que Dios le bendiga!  (May God bless you!)

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