Second languages have never come easy for me.
I remember sitting in high school Spanish having a light bulb moment when we learned the word “Estados Unidos”.
“Like why don’t they just call America ‘the United States’ like everybody else does? …you mean every single word has to be said differently?”
This is called…monolingual.
I squeezed in some German in college and looked at a couple of ancient languages in graduate school, but nothing near “having a command of the language.”
Hubs on the other hand is gifted. I mean gifted.
Proof: During our second week of Chinese class, the teacher was explaining the grammar pattern (in Chinese) and he understood.
Further proof: He was dreaming in Chinese within our first month here.
Me: deer in headlights. Crying at home after class. chaos.
Hubs was soaking it up and searching for more. His Chinese is pretty much spectacular. True, he doesn’t know every. single. word. but he can get his point across. And he is completely unafraid. He rises to the challenge.
Me: deer. crying. chaos.
I want to be understood. I want to be connected to the people I’m trying to communicate with.
For crying out loud (yes, I’m mentioning crying again), I’m 32 and I want to be able to talk with my neighbors beyond the superficial. I can’t stand light conversation in English, why would I enjoy it in Chinese?
But light conversation is where I have been for a long time. Every single word that I have in Chinese has come through very hard work. None of it came naturally.
These days, I think listening is my strongest skill, but my greatest challenge remains: the phone. If I know the person, then I’m not afraid because they generally understand my language level, but if it’s a new friend I often find myself frustrated.
The phone is difficult because the verbal comes fast and there are no non-verbal cues. It’s also annoying to get a text message and have to consult a dictionary or a living dictionary friend to understand the full meaning.
I wrestle in my spirit because I know that I am suppose to study Chinese and speak it well, but this is not something I have a natural aptitude for.
On a recent outing, we saw these two turtles and I thought, “When it comes to speaking Chinese fluently – knowing that we still have years of study ahead of us to obtain this goal – sometimes Hubs just has to pull me along.”
Hubs – thanks for your patience.