the struggle is worth it [language learning part 2]
Written by
Amy Etrheim
Posted In

She was waving her hands, motioning for all the little kids to get in a line. They didn’t really understand as she called out to them in English, and eventually she resorted to physically moving the kids so they’d be standing in a straight line.

I watched the lady, a little amused. She was a short-term worker, here for a week from America, and there was obviously a language barrier. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. It’s hard when you don’t speak the language.

I spotted a little girl in line who looked confused. I walked up, crouched over and looked her in the eyes. Her black, thick hair fell almost to her shoulders. Her deep eyes locked with mine, watching me, apprehensive. 

“Hola,” I said slowly, gently, bending down to her height. “¿Cómo te llamas?”

A little smile began to spread across her face. She responded, but so softly I couldn’t actually understand what her name was.

“Much gusto,” I responded. “Yo soy Amalia. ¿Cúal color te gustaría?

The line was to paint the little girls’ nails, and I was asking which color she would like. She glanced over at the table filled with nail polish bottles.

“Rosado,” she said quickly, pointing to a bottle that was petal pink. She looked back at me, the apprehension gone, her little eyes dancing a touch more.

And that’s why I learn Spanish.

I spent a lot of the afternoon acting as a translator, and though it practically came in handy many times for running activities, that’s not the real reason I learn Spanish.

It’s for the connection, the people, the heart-felt ability to connect in a way you just can’t if you can’t speak it. It’s for the friendship, the laughter, the making jokes. It’s for showing and sharing the love of Christ in a unique way, for crossing that bridge and being intentional to reach out to others.

It’s hard. Actually, it’s going to take years.

But in that moment, even just that one moment where I can talk to a girl and the expression on her face can melt my heart, every single second of language learning is worth it.

Learning a language opens beautiful opportunities. Amazing relationships, the ability to connect with people I'll cherish the rest of my life.

In that moment, it’s all worth it.