Thursday, January 1, 2015

It's not humiliation, but charm....

When I was 5-years old, my family frequently asked me to repeat the sentence "The squirrel ate the purple and the yellow flowers", because they thought my speech impediment was especially charming when talking about "squallals" and "popple and lello flolels". "It's so cute!" my Dad used to say "Let's not teach her to say it right!"

The other day when I asked the hotel clerk for extra towels in my halting spanish, he smiled as if I was a 5-year-old speaking of squirels and purple flowers, happily asking me how many I'd like.

When the Peace Corps interviewer asked me which of my personal qualities would help me learn a language, I replied that I was willing to be humiliated.
But, instead of labeling those amused smiles as "humiliation", I choose to think of them as "being charming". Just like I was charmed when the CancĂșn flight attendant said the time was "three and a half", and when I saw these translations above the restrooms at a park near Cancun ("Men's and Lady's").



Just as my parents knew my speech impediment wouldn't be so cute when I grew up and so helped me get speech therapy, I suspect that butchering-the-language charm won't earn me much credibility with the people I'm hoping to help.

"You have to make a million mistakes to learn a language" one of my experienced Spanish classmates used to say "so let's start making them!"

Hopefully, attending Spanish school will help me move through the humiliating "charming" phase of a million mistakes quickly.  And when people smile at me when I didn't realize I was telling a joke, I'll just think of myself as a real charmer!

1 comment:

Colleen Caldwell said...

Beautiful, Cindy.

Our oldest grandson, who is 22 now, used to use P instead of S when talking. His not-so-helpful uncle told him to go tell his grandpa Stan that he smelled like chicken soup...ya, uncles are not always good influences.

Hugs, Colleen