Although I have written many blogs expressing my struggle of communication in another language, I want to reflect on why it is improving exponentially.
Learning a social, and languages are expressed through personal interactions. There have been many times when I got stuck on a word or phrase mid-sentence. At the beginning of my trip, my first instinct was to pull out SpanishDict and look up the word. But in two seconds, I would get mad at myself for relying so much on a dictionary, and force myself to retreat back to new, creative ways to express my idea. Now that I have spent almost three weeks in La Paz, it has become more natural for me to “beat around the bush” in Spanish. Instead of trying to find a direct translation, I have found new ways to express my idea; sometimes I rely on basic vocabulary, or using gestures or drawings to get my point across at other times.
When I am listening to a co-worker speak, there are always new words or slang phrases that I won’t understand. I can’t just take out a dictionary, which has forced me to use context clues to discover the meaning or simply forget the word and move on. It takes a lot of courage to ask my co-worker what a word means, because in that moment, I admit a few things: I admit to being a foreigner, I submit to a temporary feeling of stupidity and I admit to potentially having not understand a portion of my co-worker’s story due to one word.
These feelings of failure, which lead to exponential growth and learning, aren’t made available in the classroom. Although I think it’s important to learn in a safe space, maybe there needs to be more challenge to learning a new language. The classroom must simulate a feeling of necessity, and more importantly, must provide opportunities for students to learn from each other, and not so much from the texts or homework activities.