This is Why I Write About Language Learning Challenges

Learning another language is difficult. I write about this subject frequently. There is a purpose.

If someone speaks to you in broken English, it has required a lot of courage to do it.


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I haven’t been shy about writing about language learning challenges

As I stood in the grocery store today, wondering about when they will get another shipment of the bread I buy. I need gluten-free, as I’ve talked about many times. Except, I couldn’t figure out how to say “When will you get more gluten free bread” in Spanish. I tried to break it down in a way that I would be able to say it, but sometimes the translation may not make sense in another language.

An example: In English, we can say, “My fridge isn’t working.” If you literally translate that, it simply doesn’t make sense in Spanish. Here, you’d say, “My fridge isn’t functioning.” It makes sense both ways in English, but not in Spanish.

My Spanish classes are helping me learn grammar quickly. I may actually know more Spanish grammar than French grammar (which I studied a million years ago in college and have mostly forgotten). However, trying to figure out a way to ask about the bread was beyond my capabilities this morning. So, I had to simplify.

Voy a… crap, that’s wrong

“Le pan, sanissimo, sin gluten?” I said, without any confidence whatsoever. I kind of freaked out when I started my original sentence with Voy a which wasn’t even close to what I was trying to say. Voy a is “I am going to.” I wanted to ask “Are you going to get bread?” Suddenly, I couldn’t remember how to say “Are you going to,” because I panicked a little.

In response, I received a lovely, long answer that I can’t translate, but took to mean that he had no idea when another shipment of that bread would be received.

Picture of English words and their Spanish counterpart in language learning

El postre means dessert.

All my Spanish went out the window

In the parking lot, my favorite parking lot attendant said (I imagine), that she didn’t know it was me because I drove a different car today.

“Mi carro arreglar,” I said. It translates to “my car to fix.” Again, I do know how to say “I need to fix my car” but I just couldn’t make it come out of my mouth this morning.

Keep in mind that my accent is so thick that many struggle to understand me.

Give others grace

I write about the difficulty of learning another language in order to remind people, especially those who don’t travel outside of places where their native language is spoken, that it can be really, really hard to learn. It isn’t fast. It also requires a lot of bravery on the part of the foreigner to approach someone and ask for help. I speak better than I understand. Most of the time, I want people to repeat themselves slowly and loudly!

Drinks in the air!

My hat is off to those who speak multiple languages fluently. My hat is off to those who struggle to speak a second language. And I ask for Americans, in particular, to give helpful understanding to those with broken English. People have been very kind to me in Mexico, even when they can’t understand me. I’d be hurting and scared if people had treated me poorly. Please treat others with kindness.

Do you speak a second (or third) language? Are you studying a language now and having difficulty? Or do you wish you spoke an additional language?

*This was written in November. The blog does lag behind real life a little bit. In an effort to speed up my Spanish learning process, I am adding an additional class each week starting in January.

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