Friday, January 20, 2012

Why be bilingual? (Part 2)

I took Spanish in high school for a total of three years.  I wasn't very good at it back then, probably because school didn't interest me that much.  Going into college I was planning on studying English and being an English teacher.  You know how you have to take a bunch of boring general education classes for two years until you get to studying only your major?  Yeah, that made all the difference.  I had to take a language, so I took Spanish.  Halfway through the first semester I knew what I was going to be studying.  My teacher just illuminated language learning.  She told stories, used music and just made learning fun and interesting.

I remember one turning point in my language learning.  My teacher played this song and we had to listen and try to understand.

You know how playing Sudoku or doing a crossword puzzle is frustrating, but fun?  That's what language is like most of the time for me.  Finding the best way to express a thought in another language is a game.  I love it.

Early on in my language-learning career, I was able to travel to another country


I went on a church mission trip to Perú.  My church was starting a church in the mountains in a town called San Jose de Quero.

13,000 feet up.  The Andes are tall.

That was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  My world got so much bigger.  Different hemisphere, different country, different language, different food, different animals...

I was not very good at Spanish at the time, but I gained a lot of confidence.  I also realized, with the little I knew, I was capable of experiencing a lot more than the others on my trip.  Like I said in my last blog, I am able to talk to almost 400 million more people than I was before.

I went back a second time about a year and a half ago.  Here are some pictures of both trips:


When I went back a second time, I was fully capable of conversing with people.  That was cool.  Obviously I still had a lot to learn and I still do, but I was way more capable of experiencing the culture.

The coolest experience so far that I've had is when I went to Costa Rica last summer.  I volunteered at an orphanage for 3 weeks with my friend Erin.  She had already been before so she knew a lot about how things worked, where to go and was very helpful.  The cool thing about this trip is that we had to fully rely on ourselves for the most part.  We had to travel around, communicate clearly and stay safe and out of the way in a culture we probably still don't know fully.

We got to stay with a family, which was super cool.  It's awesome, because we arrived and had nowhere to stay.  But someone just volunteered up their home to us.  That isn't something you typically will find in the United States.  What I've seen so far is that most hispanics are super nice and love you just because you're alive.  During our time there, we learned a lot about everything from talking to our new mamá.  She cooked for us, washed our laundry and made it feel like home.  That was an invaluable experience.

(Erin, Olga, Coquito, Me)

During my time I got to: play with a bunch of silly/hyper kids, go to a beach after a 4 hour bus ride on which I stood for 3 hours, go to a theme park, eat delicious food, meet amazing people, learn more about Costa Rica and a billion more things.

Karsten and us playing a homemade Trouble with the kids

Erin and Amber

Nikoline, Erin and I hanging clothes

 Cartago, Costa Rica

I guess the point of all of this is that these experiences were much more enriching because I was able to experience them a little more fully.

I have also been able to be very active in the community at Social Services.  I wrote a little about that here if you want to read it.  (The poor and broken)

I'm also trying to get involved with The Gray Haven Project.  Which is an organization that fights human trafficking.  I wrote about that recently too in 27 Million.

Learning another language has really involved me in what's going on in the world.  I have learned so many things that I wouldn't have learned otherwise.  I have heard music, eaten food and done things I wouldn't have experienced otherwise.  I have met so many people that I simply wouldn't have been able to talk to even if we stood face to face.

I just see so much value in expanding your world this way.

Language is beautiful, interesting and brings a whole lot to the table.

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