The biggest personal challenge to face while traveling abroad to Argentina is the language barrier.
Not one word of Spanish occupies my vocabulary, I didn’t study the language in the past. But the barrier doesn’t stop there; I have a personal vendetta with speaking foreign languages that goes deeper.
Exposure to other languages in my elementary years was zero until the 9th grade.We were not a bi-lingual family, and learning other languages wasn’t promoted.
Studying 2 years of a foreign language in high school was required to get into a university though. Clarkston High school had three options: German, Spanish and French.
German as a spoken language sounded bad to me. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to study Spanish back then because Spanish was the language of Mexico, and Mexicans, who had negative stigma in the culture I grew up in.*
So I studied French. Two years of it, taught by Mrs. Hays. She was a strict, humorless middle aged woman who lacked all forms of imagination possible. She loathed students like myself who participated in sports. She favored the pretty, skinny, graceful girls with parents who could afford to send them on bi-yearly excursions to France.
The class never deviated from the book’s lessons. I disliked (and still do) the sound of my own voice to begin with, and felt completely exposed and embarrassed to hear such strange sounds coming from my mouth. My tongue felt heavy and rubbery, the inside of my mouth a foreign cavity that refused to collaborate in the least bit. That horrible teenage self-consciousness and lack of confidence peaked during those years.
What’s worse, is that my English education to that point had been lacking as well. So when words such as ‘conjugate’ and ‘reflexive’ are used to describe French words I was completely lost.
If I ever had a ‘knack’ for language it was beaten out of me in those years.
Can my foreign language curse be broken? They tell me that I’ll pick it up quickly once I get down there, but I’m terrified. Communication is something that is very important to me. I get a sinking feeling in my chest whenever I don’t understand an inside joke or when I’m the only one who apparently doesn’t ‘get it.’ You know that feeling: jealousy, frustration, isolation and sadness all in one. If you know a word that exists to describe that feeling let me know. There should be a word for it; it’s a very distinct emotion.
The jealousy-frustration-isolation-disappointing-self-failing feeling is going to be an hourly occurrence starting January 14th. Which may be a good thing for personal integrity and resilience, but I’m not going to like it.
I’ve been studying. I’m on my way to learning nouns with a few websites including www.onlinefreespanish.com and www.studyspanish.org. But it seems you have to pay a fee to adequately learn anything more than nouns. If anyone has any suggestions, or a copy of the Rosetta Stone I can borrow, comment on this blog. I’ll take anything.
As for now, yo hablo español muy poco.
*I know, it isn’t right, and I know better now. But such were the impressions formed via an average conservative American childhood in the 90’s.