The Little Things
Quiero aprender ingles para ir al mercado.
“I want to learn English so that I can go to the store.” This is what he said to me as we were taking a break from laboring over the questions “how are you?” and “what is your name?”.
Tonight was my first official night volunteering at a nearby church as an English conversation teacher. I sat in on a class last week but now I work alone with a couple. As we practiced questions that were the lesson for the night, I learned that they were from Bogota, Colombia. He was 70. She was 62. Through our continued conversation in Spanish, I learned that they had been in the US for 2 years and had begun attending English classes 4 months ago.
He passionately explained to me how badly he wanted to learn English. I was struck by his nonchalant comment that he wanted to learn English so that he could go shopping. Shopping. Something that is only inconvenient for me when it rains and I might get wet. Buying a coffee is something that I don’t think twice about when I am in the US. I did have a few weeks of adjustment in Spain when I struggled with basic communication in Spanish but that quickly passed. I have never lived long term in a place where I spoke none of the native language. Working with this couple reminded me of how difficult it must be to try to integrate into another culture when you cannot speak the language. Even simple things like ordering at a restaurant or introducing yourself to someone are difficult.
I look forward to working with them again next week. I love teaching English because as I teach, I learn. I learn about experiences and cultures that aren’t my own.