The Effort to Make an Effort

By Marta Djalleta
Having done a study abroad experience before, I know the difficulty of living in a foreign country and barely speaking the native tongue. After the month I spent in Spain two years ago, I knew how to say “sí” to everything anyone said to me. As well as mastering the look of comprehension when it seemed like I just heard Mandarin Chinese. Despite the couple laughs that I would get every now and then, saying yes to everything was easy, and for the most part allowed me to make my way through the foreign environment. However, this strategy severely limited the possibility for growth in my Spanish skills. I learned to accept my lack of understanding with almost every word that came out of my host families’ mouth, rather than accepting that I needed work and making an effort to try to comprehend and improve.
With this in the past, I know that this study abroad experience needs to be different. When someone says something to me in what they claim to be Spanish, instead of what seems like Chinese, I need to say qué? Repite por favor! Or más despacio por favor! Until their Chinese translates into a Spanish that I understand. With this comes patience from my host family, which I know they already have much of. The most difficult person I have to work on this with is myself. I need to accept the fact that I will not understand everything immediately and I may sound like an idiot saying qué? 5 times before answering a question, but it’s all part of the learning process. Since I am here to learn, and improving my Spanish skills is a big goal of mine, I need to make the effort to make an effort!

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