#AdventurousApril: Just Go for it!

19 Apr

Growing up I was exposed to several customs and traditions through my Mexican-American culture, and I grew up speaking two languages, Spanish and English. Throughout the years I will admit my Spanish has turned into what most people would describe as “Spanglish”. But I have been trying to perfect my Spanish the best I can. That means using the language often and in every way possible. Now I’m sure many of you can relate speaking a language that isn’t your first can be nerve-racking. Everyone has their fears and one of mine is speaking Spanish with a group outside my family. So, in order to face my fear and get a little adventurous, I volunteered at soup kitchen hosted by a local church this past weekend!

Many people in the Tucson community speak Spanish so I thought this would be the best opportunity to put myself out there and use my bilingual skills for a good cause. At first I noticed my hands were shaking, so I asked myself, “Maddie why are you so nervous? What’s the worst that can happen?” Bad idea. Then I started thinking about all these scenarios “What if someone laughs at me and then scolds me for using ‘un’ when I should have used ‘unos’?!”

I kept to myself for the first few minutes I was there then suddenly had my first encounter with a woman who only spoke Spanish.

“¿Mijita, me puedes ayudar distribuir los sándwiches cuando llegan la gente?”

I was relieved her question was short and simple but still, I responded with a soft “Si”.

Shortly after I began helping her put the sandwiches in bags then made my way to the front where everyone was working handing out food to visitors of the food bank. Several of the visitors spoke English, but I was often thanked with a “Gracias.” I was beginning to get disappointed because I was barely using my Spanish to communicate, I was barely using any language at all. For a period of time I only nodded my head kept smiling.

Eventually I got myself together and forced myself to make my way to the table where all the volunteer chefs hung out at. To my surprise only 2 of the 5 chefs spoke English,

“Yes! Now is my chance!” I got the courage to ask to sit with them and listened to some interesting stories. Most of them were in their late 60s so I got to hear some incredible experiences. The thing that surprised me the most was that I suddenly became comfortable asking all these questions and even sharing some of my experiences and thoughts about being in college. I did however struggle with some words like often mixing present tense verbs with future tenses but they were extremely patient and even helped me along the way.

What made my volunteering experience adventurous was including myself in an environment where speaking Spanish and English was necessary. Once I warmed up to speaking Spanish, I didn’t want to stop and the more my confidence grew, the better my Spanish became. It made me realize that if you want to perfect or improve any skill, all you need is practice. Looking back on my experience, I reminded myself that I can accomplish most things if I take a chance and just go for it. Who would have thought I would have these insightful conversations with other Spanish speakers? Facing a fear or tackling an insecurity is definitely an adventure in itself. It allows you to test your limits and knock down boundaries you would have never crossed before.

Until next time,

Maddie

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