The only reason I am not Jake Duran today – my abuela.
Abuela has the youth of a college freshman and the patience of a Saint. But dear lord, she can not make a ‘J’ sound to save her life. My parents came to her with their unborn son’s new name. Beaming and waving at my Mom’s stomach, she said, ‘Que lindo, Little Yakey”. So now, I’m Alejandro. Spanish has been a part of my identity before I was even born.
There’s a desperation to not understand people at a dinner table that I particularly hate. Understanding reduces to cognates, tone and body language. As much as learning Spanish is for my Abuela, it’s also so I never again sit around a dining table and laugh on command.
High school classes, bad jobs, salsa dancing and Hispanic friends all helped this process. But whenever you’re learning a language, there is only one equation that needs solving:
Time with Target Language > Time with Birth Language
Living in the US, there is an idea that moving to another country will fix this. Then, once you get to that country, there’s an idea that finding a spouse will fix this. Then, once you find a spouse, there’s an idea that watching Netflix with audio + subtitles will help you both.
They all serve as quick ways to solve the problem, but they aren’t magic. You know what is? Your phone + laptop. You can pick the country in which you wake up. Stream live radio, watch original TV and movies, walk around with podcasts, and see anything you want to see. You can talk to strangers or follow others on Instagram and YouTube. There’s nothing stopping you from living all your free time across the world. Except, of course, for the life you would be giving up.
We can learn anything today, do anything today, be anyone today. We want to think it takes is patience and the determination to take that knowledge and shove it into our meat sacks. But often overlooked is the opportunity cost of each pursuit. Spending an hour one way is not spending it 1000 other ways – that feels new.
The French came along and started having conversations in front of me. I felt that desperation again. So, I’ll learn that one next.
Thanks for taking a sip,
Teaching English has always made this part of moving to another country a little difficult. When your main job is to speak and talk about English, it takes away from the learning yourself. Keep it in mind if you’re trying to learn!