On Learning (Spanish)…

I am attempting to learn Spanish.
And I must admit, it is slow going.
I have great resources at my disposal – a couple of good apps, some workbooks, flashcards, podcasts and other tools.
But the problem is my brain.
It resists learning the new – and it keeps mixing in the old.
Because 20 years ago, I learned a little Japanese.
So that pathway in my brain is firmly established.
And when I go to think in Spanish, often Japanese jumps out instead.

Now, there are some things about Spanish that I find to be easy.
Lots and lots of words come from Latin roots that I recognize.
Change a few letters, use the proper pronunciation, and they make sense.
But then there are other words.
Like the word for “lunch”. Almuerzo. How in the world is that “lunch”? I am sure there is a great explanation – but all that matters to me is that I have a hard time remembering that one.
And don’t get me started on the accents, the “tildes”. One little mark changes the meaning of the word completely.
Not to mention the verbs. Oh, Spanish verbs! They are the bane of my existence!

I have found that one of the keys to success for me is my own faithfulness level.
You see, I tried to learn Spanish three years ago.
And I did great for about two months.
But then life got busy.
And it got harder.
And I got overwhelmed.
So when I sat down to hit “restart” a few months ago, very little of what I had learned then was still in my brain.
I am trying to do it differently this time.
I have made it a very intentional part of my morning routine. And then when I have a few minutes during the day I will practice with flash cards. Or do another short lesson on the app.
And because I have practiced more faithfully, it is getting easier. Things are sticking more.

Another thing I am doing differently this time is asking for help.
Using the resources I have.
Friends who are native speakers.
Some online dictionary sites.
I am even trying to get together periodically with others who are learning so that we can practice together.

And why am I so motivated this time around?
Relationships.
We have an ongoing partnership with a ministry in Guatemala.
The first time I tried to learn was right after the first trip there.
And I was motivated.
But in the last three years, as the partnership has developed, I am even more motivated.
I want to be able to actually talk to the people there that I love without using a translator for EVERTHING.
Will I still need a translator? Oh, yes, I am sure I will!
After all, it is a BIG language that I am trying to learn.
And I have a very finite brain.
But I want to do my part to make communication easier.
I want to be able to speak heart-to-heart with my friends there.
So I study.

But I will say this – I also get in my own way.
Pride stops me from using my Spanish in situations where I could easily take it out for a spin.
I panic and think, “I might say it wrong! I might offend! I might make a fool of myself!”
So I trot out English instead.
I know that the very best way to learn is to practice.
And I also know that I will fail along the way.
But my own self-interests, my own pride, my own fear of looking foolish are lousy excuses for not making connections.

————————————-

I am attempting to become more and more like Jesus, to be a disciple of the Lord.
And I must admit, it is slow going.
I have great resources at my disposal – the Word of God, some Bible studies, podcasts and other tools.
But the problem is my brain.
It resists learning the new – and it keeps mixing in the old.
Because 48 years ago, I was born a sinner.
So that pathway in my brain is firmly established.
And when I go to think like Jesus, often my sinful-self jumps out instead.

Now, there are some things about following Jesus that are easy.
Lots and lots of what He has called us to do just makes sense and sounds a lot like simply great advice.
Stop worrying, because it doesn’t change anything.
Pray about everything, because God is bigger than you and wants to hear from you.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
But then there are other things that He said.
Like the “Love your enemies”.
And “Forgive no matter what.”
And “Not only treat people as you want to be treated – take it a step further and treat them the way God has treated you.”
Loving the unlovely.
Forgiving the unforgivable.
Seeing myself as God sees me and acting accordingly.
Seeking first His kingdom.

I have found that one of the keys to success for me is my own faithfulness level.
You see, I have claimed the name “Christ-follower” for 44 of my 48 years.
But it wasn’t until my early 30’s that I actually became committed to a daily time with Him.
Because life was busy. I had too much to do to take the time to pray about everything. To soak in His Word. To read great authors who loved Him and had great things to say.
Life was hard and so I didn’t make the time to spend with Him.
And I got overwhelmed.
And when I was living that way, I had to dredge up the strength to live for Him out of old resources.
Sunday School lessons from childhood.
Sermons on Sundays.
Verses I had learned as a kid.
But they weren’t fresh each day. They weren’t “new morning mercies”. They weren’t fresh food.
Because I wasn’t taking the time to feast with Him each day.
And it made life so much harder than it had to be.
But for the past 15 years or so, I have made time with Him a very intentional part of my morning routine. And I have learned to make prayer like breathing through my day. If you are someone I love and you come to mind in the course of the day, I pray for you. Just a sentence or two – and then I move on. Before a meeting, when the phone rings, as I am working on a project, I chat with God. Sometimes asking for help, other times simply being thankful.
And because I have practiced more faithfully, it is getting easier. Things are sticking more. I am not living on stale bread and tepid water. Instead, my life flows out of His life, the Living Bread and Living Water that came down from heaven. Not because I am wonderful – but because He is.

Another thing I am learning to do differently over time is asking for help.
Using the resources I have.
I have the greatest Native Speaker of Truth living inside of me – the Holy Spirit of the Living God.
And He is more than willing to give me all that I need to live for Him.
I just need to ask.
To stop and listen.
To remember He is there and to seek His help.
I am also learning to use the other resources I have with more regularity.
And I make a point of getting together with others who love Him so that we can encourage each other, pray for each other, and lift each other up.

And why am I so motivated?
Relationships. First with Him. And then with those He loves.
The more I understand about the incredible grace of God, the more I want to be like Him.
The more I comprehend just how loved I am – just as I am – the more it motivates me to grow as His kid.
The more I see Him at work in my life and the lives of those I love, the more I want to be on the same page with Him, accomplishing His purposes in my world.
And because I am more in tune with His heart for me, I am also more in tune with His heart for the world.
I want to be able to reach those who don’t have this hope that I have found.
I want those who know Him to know Him even more.
I want to encourage and equip as I have been encouraged and equipped.
I have seen the difference my intentionality has made in my walk with Him.
And I want you to have that, too.

Will I still need a translator His help? Oh, yes, I am sure I will!
After all, it is a life-long journey to become more like Him.
And I have a very finite brain.
But I want to do my part to make communication easier.
I want to be able to speak heart-to-heart with Him even more perpetually.
I want Him to call me “a woman after My own heart”.
And I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” when I see Him face to face.
Not to earn His love.
I already have that by His choice alone.
But because I am deeply loved, I want to live like it.
So I study.

But I will say this – I also get in my own way.
Pride stops me from sharing His love with others.
I panic and think, “I might say it wrong! I might offend! I might make a fool of myself!”
So I stay silent when I should speak.
Or I trot out platitudes instead.
Or I shut down.
I know that the very best way to learn is to practice.
And I also know that I will fail along the way.
But my own self-interests, my own pride, my own fear of looking foolish are lousy excuses for not sharing the Love of my life with the world.
The Hope I have found.
And the Rescue from an eternity in hell.


Learning Spanish is important to me.
But learning to be like Jesus is critical.
For me.
But also for you.

He is worth the investment, I promise.
He longs to spend time with you – but the choice is yours.

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5 thoughts on “On Learning (Spanish)…

  1. Hello! Fellow Christ-follower and Spanish speaker here. I have a question about your blogging style. Is this stream of consciousness? Or freeform poetry? Or… something else? Just wondering. xD

    I’m also curious as to why you want to learn Spanish. If it’s so hard, why not give up? I don’t mean to discourage, because I think it’s great that you want to learn. But it’s not clear to me why you put yourself through something that seems so frustrating.

    Also, you mentioned that it’s hard to remember vocabulary. Have you tried Memrise? I really like it because it helps you connect ideas you already have, and tie in the new word you want to remember.

    If you’re interested, I might have some tips about how to remember verbs, too. Let me know. 🙂

    Like

    1. Hi! Nice to meet you.

      I can’t say that I have ever pinpointed my “blogging style”. The pieces actually started as encouragement for my volunteers – I am the Director of Children’s Ministries at my church. People wanted to be able to share them and the blog was born. Some do feel more like poetry, others like essays. But they are just generally what I would say to you over a cup of coffee about whatever the topic may be.

      I want to learn Spanish so that I can communicate with our friends in Guatemala without using a translator (as much). My church is in a community-to-community partnership with a care point there through a group called Children’s Hope Chest. Part of our commitment is to take annual trips to see the kids we sponsor. My goal is to be able to be a more effective communicator with them. It is hard because languages don’t come naturally to me. But just because something is hard doesn’t make it less worth doing. It is very important to me to be able to hear their hearts – and everyone communicates best in their “heart language”, which is usually the one they learned first.

      I am not familiar with Memrise – I will have to check it out. Thanks for the offer, as well. I will keep it mind.

      Blessings!
      Kathy

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Kathy,

        Wow, that’s so cool! My wife and I are youth leaders in our church and we met in missions. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. 🙂 I started my blog because I teach English to non-native English speakers, and I found that a lot of people expressed the same doubts and problems over and over again. The cool thing is, now I can share the posts I write with the kids in my church who don’t have money to learn English well, and they don’t know any other way.

        What I would suggest for you, if you’re open to a suggestion, is to focus on small wins. Right now you have this huge target of wanting to be understood and to understand people. And more than understanding what they’re saying, you want to understand their heart.

        What you might find is that many of the topics you will listen to are very similar. Depending on what you know of their background, you might focus on vocabulary about families, popular jobs in that area, school activities, sports, etc. Depending on how old these kids are will depend on what you need to study.

        Duolingo is a great tool for general learning, but your target is super specific. And if your target group is young kids, you might be better off learning fewer words, but targeting those words to that group of kids. If you’ve visited them before, think about what they tend to talk about. Even more importantly, think about what they *don’t* talk about and eliminate everything that doesn’t matter.

        This will help to shrink your massive goal to a more manageable one. Then, you can focus on just little groups of words and simple grammar, but get really good at that. Having fewer things to worry about makes it a lot easier to reach a level of “fluency” in your target area. And because of how specific your needs are, you might ace Duolingo and get to Guatemala and realize “oh dear, I’m missing a lot of what I need.”

        Once you know what your smaller target is, and you can break that down into smaller chunks, you can more easily create a targeted practice regimen that will get you the results you want faster.

        If there’s any way I can help, I’d love to. You have a really good reason to want to learn!

        Like

      2. Hi
        I appreciate your input. But I am actually not as frustrated as my blog has apparently led you to believe. Children’s Hope Chest provides wonderful translators that make our visits super easy. And I am willing to take learning in baby steps. The point of the blog was more about discipleship, the Christian walk and the things that trip us up compared to my experiences in learning Spanish – sort of a modern parable, if you will…

        Liked by 1 person

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