This semester I have begun taking upper-level Spanish classes, and I have honestly never been more frustrated in a classroom.
I love thinking through big ideas and communicating them, so when I have to work within my limited Spanish vocabulary to explain my position on euthanasia or discuss how the theme of a poem reflects on culture, I feel paralyzed. Though are swarming in my mind, but the words can’t come out. They’re not in Spanish.
So, I have to think within my Spanish vocabulary and mentally search for words that communicate a similar meaning. However, these statements often down’t have the same clear, forceful effect that the English words would.
This frustration has led me to discover two things: learning a language provides an opportunity to practice forgiving yourself, and it can cause you to be more understanding when communication with foreigners.
Thomas Edison is often credited with inventing the incandescent light bulb, but did not succeed on his first attempt. Considering the hard work that went into making an idea a reality, Edison said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Instead of beating myself up for all the things that I do wrong when I write a Spanish paper or participate in classroom discussion, I’ve started celebrating my own light bulb moments. Light bulb moment don’t signify an “aha moment;” they celebrate the journey of learning, including the mistakes.
I struggle with perfectionism. Sometimes I only want to do something if I know I can be the best at it. Yet, only doing things that I know I can succeed at is holding me back from success in more areas. We learn from our mistakes. It’s okay to mess up – what matters is that you learn and try again.
Trying to learn a new language has also increased my awareness for just how dif cult it can be for immigrants who come to the U.S. Not only are they adjusting to a different culture, but they may also be trying to learn a new language. And, unlike me, the struggle doesn’t end at the conclusion of an hour and 15 minute class.
Whether or not you are learning a new language, it is important to be gracious to those who are genuinely trying to learn yours.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, South Carolina saw a 57 percent increase in foreign language speakers between 2000 and 2013.
While not all foreign language speakers are recent immigrants, Census Bureau statistics do re ect the fact that the U.S. is a diverse nation ethically.
Through my job and volunteer opportunities, I am often in contact with people who do not know English as their rst language. Learning a new language has increased my patience when I know someone is trying to search for the English words to communicate a thought. Also, it has motivated me to be more creative with how I communicate.
Learning a new language doesn’t have to be frustrating. It can provide an innovative learning opportunity that extends past mastering verb conjugations and sentence structure. The learning process might be dif cult, but we shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity because it is dif cult. As Edison states, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”