A few weeks ago, in one of my classes, we had a guest speaker. From her first carefully pronounced word, it was evident that she was not a native English speaker. As I listened to her throughout her talk, I was struck by how well she was speaking. I mean she was doing such a good job speaking English, which she should since she was teaching a college class with an English-speaking audience, but still. I was impressed.
I’m not sure if anyone else in the class thought much about her accent, but I did. I thought about all the work that went into knowing the phrases and colloquialisms she was so fluidly using. Behind each word was probably a moment of confusion, a fear of never being understood. All of that work had paid off though and I hope she feels that.
I often mention the importance of truly connecting with the culture you live in on this blog, but I don’t always talk about how stinkin’ hard it is to learn the language you need to connect. I clearly remember sitting in an Italian classroom, my neck aching from stress, struggling to understand the words being spoken to me. I know how hard it is, but as time has passed I’ve forgotten how truly difficult it is to live in a different language.
So, for those of you who don’t speak your country’s language and haven’t had the opportunity to fully learn it: I understand how hard learning a new language can be. You don’t have to know the language to be valuable.
And for those of you who are in the moments of confusion and translation and vocab charts: keep on.