Communication is completely different on so many levels. It was during week one and it still is during week four. Ironically, if anything, it has gotten harder.
Communicating with my host family has in some ways, become easier. I have been able to learn the different phrases they use regularly and I can now distinguish the differences in pronunciation and vocabulary between Costa Rica and Spain.
However, communicating with them has also become more difficult. Culturally, everyone is extremely excited to help when it comes to the spanish language. This means that oftentimes when I become stuck on a word or phrase, my family will begin trying to finish my sentences for me. I struggle with this a lot. Over the last two weeks, I have realized it comes purely from a place of wanting to help, which has helped me to feel better about the situation. Additionally, during many conversations I will have to abruptly stop to take a moment to formulate a sentence or write down a correction to further understand and learn.
Overall, I am thankful my family works with me, every time I speak, because I can see how I am improving weekly.
Right now, my biggest struggles occur outside our home. Oftentimes, I feel like a complete idiot, sometimes based on the way others respond or treat me.
Last week, I went to the post office to mail some postcards to the US. I walked in feeling pretty confident and walked out just the opposite. I know I have a very “gringo” accent, and don’t speak as quickly as others. After telling me how much it would cost to sent my postcards, the teller knocked on the glass to hold up the number of fingers that corresponded with the cost. When I looked up, I already had the appropriate number of colones out. I found myself offended, most likely because I did understand what was being said and what was asked of me; yet I don’t completely believe she meant to offend me.
It seems that many struggles happen when out and about buying things. Another time, I was buying some things at the grocery store and the employee automatically took out a calculator to show me the numbers instead of verbally tell me how much I owed. It’s hard when you’re not even given a chance, most likely based upon looks.
However, a fews days ago, when shopping in the market, a few people asked if I speak Spanish, and then allowed me to try. Others, didn’t even bat an eye when I spoke Spanish and responded just the same as anyone else. This also happens at a café near campus where I like to spend my time completing homework. The servers are always really patient and work with our Spanish.
All of my experiences with a language barrier continually remind me of those in the US who do not speak English as their first language. I’ve even thought of this with classmates from other countries who communicate with us in English.
Specifically in the US, I have found a lot of negativity toward those who speak English as their second language. Additionally, I have lived in a bubble where people believe that because “we’re in America, they need to speak English” which infuriates me more and more.
As time passes, I am sure I will have more opportunities to reflect upon my language barrier, my improvements, and those living in the US.