A Month Strong


It has been a month since I’ve been here in Chiapas. Today I could say, “Entiendo poco, y me gusta…” at church. Understanding is slow, but it is coming! (I was worried after last week–thinking I would never get there!)

The thing is, I am learning a little every day. It is like a kid learning to speak. I look up the same words over and over until they stick. I can carry on a rough conversation. Understand that it is rough. I am sloowly getting there though!

These are five things that really help a lot:

1). Listening.
It isn’t enough to just be present like I do in English. I have to really focus on the words that I hear people say. If they slow down and enunciate correctly, well, I have better luck. (I have to start wearing face cream. Between the sun and me contorting my face when people talk…)

2). Talking.
I really try! I also try not to be embarrassed. I didn’t have to look up as many words today when I gave my testimony. The more I try out words and phrases the better I do! I also don’t shy away from ordering things, asking for things at the store, etc. It doesn’t usually help in the situation…

3). Read.
If I were to read for pleasure, I would be reading a child’s book. It is really helpful when we read aloud at church. I get to practice words, and the teacher in me discovered a word pattern that I have difficulties with. I can look less at the English translation now–and that is encouraging! It also helps me to see that they don’t have the exact words for some ideas. I’m also learning sentence structure–which is hard!

4). Music.
This is, by far, my favorite. I downloaded Spanish music. I started with this adorable kid at school who loves to dance. He knows all the popular music here. I listen to music on the Mexican MTV too. I listen to music on the bus. I translate the lyrics on my own and with Google translate. It’s awesome when I find out I am right…

5). I ask for help.
I have no shame. I know my kids laugh at me, but that’s okay. I laugh at them too. Today, I was trying to tell a lady that I had to go feed my friend’s cat, and I accidentally said I had to eat my friend’s cat. I am happy to admit that I caught my own mistake (even though I didn’t know how to fix it).

I’m waiting for it to all click! like when kids learn to read. I’ll keep you posted…

oh! P.S. I started taking garlic pills. Dad swears they ward off mosquitos. I’m unconvinced, but willing to try anything…

6 responses

  1. Oh, Jania, I love you…everybody loves you! Unfortunately, none of us knows what we mean or how we appear to others, so you’ ll never know how awesome you are!
    1) Like much of life, you should expect ups and downs in your sense of ability in the language. I think this is a combination of things. The experiences when you feel absolutely stupid and incapable will often be followed by experiences when you’ll fell ‘ok’ or even ‘good.’ I think it’s perceptual…from the bottom, everything else looks up. On the downside, after an experience when you’re feeling super competent you may have an experience that is quite disappointing…from the top everything else looks down. It’s the Farris wheel effect…though maybe I’m a little bipolar.
    2) Remember how long it took you to learn English? I know the two learning experiences aren’t comparable, but it’s encouraging to consider! No, you didn’t have ‘a few years of HS/College English’ as a toddler…but you were maybe late in your first decade of life before you started speaking elegant English (by ‘you’, I mean everyone, and by ‘English’ I mean primary language.). This is not to discourage you, you’re probably getting by better than you think now, but do not be discouraged by your limitations.
    3) You’re doing all the right things to learn the language in the ‘immersed experience.’ I remember watching some weird German movie dubbed in Russian one evening. It was so mesmerizing…I had very little understand of what was going on, there were only two voices (one female and one male voice for all actors) and I so much wanted to hear the underlying German to see if I understood that!
    4) Remember work-arounds! You probably already do this, but for ‘I need to feed the cat’, you could say ‘tengo que dar el gato su comida’ or ‘debo ayudar el gato’. It’s probably poor Spanish and you’ll sound stupid, but you don’t care…You probably have the grammar of a 3 &1/2 year old anyway…and that’s fine!
    5) For meeting, remember, bread is not prepared or consumed by intellect! It’s prepared with the right ingredients and labor by experienced hands and consumed by those with an appetite for it. Less is often more and more is often excessive. This is not to say that any of these things were lacking last week, but we’re often spoiled by intellectual stimulation and that is really just just something extra…
    This is too much, I apologize.
    Love you.

    • Oh, Mikey– thanks! I like that whole “Ferris Wheel” effect idea. Cause it is definitely like that. I will get super confident after one conversation, then bungle the next.

      The good news is I haven’t had autoimmune issues since December (knock on wood…)

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