We’ve lived in Arequipa for two years.
I was nominated to write about our Arequipa-versary. The golden date in missions is two years. After two years culture shock becomes easier and you will be comfortable in the language…or so they say. But I’ve learned a few things in these two years. 1) Culture shock will never truly go away because I will never truly be Peruvian. 2) Language depends on the person.
On our team we have those who already spoke two languages (making the third easier), those who had already spent years studying Spanish, and those who enjoy languages. I do not fall into any of those categories. I can tell you which back roads to take to avoid traffic, have a fairly complete public transportation map in my head, and remember equations from Calculus in high school…but I can’t diagram a sentence. So it shouldn’t have shocked me when, at the end of two years, I didn’t feel comfortable in Spanish.
I was quite frustrated about how I felt in Spanish until I tried to have a conversation with our neighbor’s family visiting from Brazil. I CAN speak and understand Spanish because I clearly CANNOT speak and understand Portuguese. This made me really think about what I have accomplished. I’ve:
- taken my child to the emergency room and been able to explain what happened and understand what needed to happen
- taught and kept the attention of first and second graders for an entire 45 minute class
- written Bible class curriculum
and most recently
- answered detailed questions about my medical history while in full blown labor in a bed in the emergency room (I’ve decided that if your language doesn’t fail you there…it won’t ever.)
So…as we prepare for furlough I need to remember that, although I may not have as much knowledge of tenses as a current college student majoring in Spanish, I use Spanish to accomplish nearly everything I need to do on a daily basis. And that alone should make me ‘comfortable’ in the language.