1. Encountering a Struggling Nonnative English Speaker
After dedicating several years of my life to studying Spanish, I still found communication the biggest challenge. In every language class most people say that speaking in a classroom is far different from speaking in spontaneous, “real life” conversation. Don’t ignore the cliché: speaking a foreign language in its home country is not a different situation, it’s a different language entirely. My summer was abundant with sighs of relief when kind, patient Spaniards took time out of their days to listen to my tongue-tied, effort-filled attempt to speak their language. Each of those moments was a reminder of patience and understanding in the company of nonnative English speakers within the United States. I promise, they are trying their best. Take it from someone whose “best” was another country’s “oh my gosh she’s trying so hard but I have no idea what she’s saying” and be grateful that a nonnative speaker is trying to communicate with you in your own language out of respect for your culture. I know what it feels like to be on the other side.
2. Rushing to Be On-Time
No matter where I am going or what I am doing, I am often rushing out the door, fighting to be on time for whatever it is I have planned for the day. In Spain, I learned that the stress of being in a hurry is nothing more than a social pressure imposed by our time-focused, constantly-moving culture. While in Spain, whether I was going to the classroom, the market, the train station, my host family reminded me, “Tranquilo,” or “Calm down,” because they couldn’t understand the purpose of the rush. In Spain, the people shifted their focus from the clock to the experience: they don’t like being rushed, so they don’t rush. If they’re late, at least they’re relaxed. If they apologize for their tardiness, they are often comforted with a “no pasa nada,” or, “there is nothing amiss.” Now that I am back in my own time-sensitive, sometimes pressure-filled country, I will remember that in the grand scheme of life, being late and calm is often a better choice than being on-time and stressed. I will remember to focus on where I am rather than where I should be, and I will emphasize what I’m doing rather than what I have to do.
Gracias, España. Soy una persona cambiada gracias a ti.
Thank you, Spain. I am a changed person because of you.