Multi-lingual barriers frustrate self-proclaimed chatterbox

Roxy Hammond

Roxy Hammond

Estoy estupida.

I’m a triple major. I’m an over-achiever with the inability to quit. I’ve been around this joint for five years now, and I’m starting to feel the burn.

I’m currently in my final semester, finishing off my third and final degree-Spanish. Why is this significant, you ask? Because it is the hardest academic thing I’ve ever had to do. Which is saying a lot, since I’m going to graduate with 168 credits. You know, like 20 more credits than I had to. Or, to put it in more painful terms-like $3,000 and 1.5 more semesters than I had to. I’ve been around the academic block, so to speak.

Now are you seeing why I’m stupid?

This semester I’m finding myself in a little over my head. I don’t have a single textbook in English. All of my classes are taught in a different language. I’m getting really good at a blank stare, and muttering the phrase “Lo siento, no comprendo.”

I shuffle home at night after class, and I sit down to partake in four more hours of Spanish homework-at least. Does it have to be four hours? Maybe if I wasn’t completely language-retarded-but I am. So I slave away at my Spanish literature, my culture and civilization, and my Latin American perceptions of the U.S. I look up words frequently, and I pray to god that maybe the next time I stumble upon them, my dictionary will not be necessary.

Why do I put myself through this? You know, I ask myself the same question about five times a night-and throughout the day and sometimes even in my nightmares.

There are the obvious reasons-learning Spanish will help me get a better job, bigger paycheck, blah blah blah. Then there’s the part about expanding my cultural horizons beyond my Americanism. But do any of those really matter when your friends are out drinking on a Saturday night and you’re writing a three page paper in another language? No, not really. It sucks.

But more important than the ‘suck’ of my lack of a social life, is my deep inner urge to communicate. My middle school math teacher once told my mother, “I can’t sit Roxy anywhere. She’ll talk to anybody.” It’s true, I’m a chatterbox.

So, imagine my discontent when I discover I’m living in a country where a growing amount of the population is speaking a language that I can’t understand.

No bueno.

Then I got a job at the Modern Language department my sophomore year, and started putting the nails in my academic coffin. Hearing all the instructors babble back and forth in Spanish all day long gave me the inspiration to survive a couple crappy Spanish courses, and force myself to memorize vocabulary words and verb endings. Now don’t get me wrong-I encourage everyone to learn another language. It is an amazing asset in the world, and to yourself. But it’s no place for sissies-that’s for sure.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Yet, here I am, nine semesters and one month in Mexico later, and I’m still really terrible at speaking the language. But I’m sticking with it. I’m sticking with it until I feel comfortable holding a conversation with a native speaker of Spanish. I’m sticking with it until I feel culturally fulfilled. I’m sticking with it until-ah crap. One of my professors just e-mailed me back. Now I have to redo part of a paper.

Yep. Estoy estupida or estoy loca. I can’t decide which.

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