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Why Bother Learning a New Language?

When I was eleven my family moved from Aberdeen, South Dakota to Durango, Colorado. Living in Durango I encountered a new culture at my junior high, Spanish speaking teachers and students. I’d grown up in an English speaking home, and English speaking schools. The sound of Spanish was foreign to my ears and though I was required to take a Spanish class, Spanish never did become a familiar language to me. 

    Como estas ?

My Spanish teacher, Mr. Martinez, of course, spoke Spanish fluently and fast. He’d walk up and down the straight columns of desks in his classroom saying phrases and listening to our choral or individual responses. I had no trouble with choral responses because I relied heavily on others who sat near me. But, when Mr. Martinez pointed to just me expecting a response, I could not produce any of the right words. 

One day after class, Mr. Martinez called me up to his desk. He was a kind man, but I could tell I’d worn down his patience. My inability to produce coherent sentences in Spanish and his inability to teach me Spanish had caused him to comb his fingers through his shiny black hair so much I was surprised he still had any hair at all. 

He spoke slowly to me, in English, while handing me a 45 inch vinyl record. “I want you to listen to this over and over again, both sides. It should help you learn Spanish.” I nodded and placed the record on top of my books. 

Taking it home, I drug the record player out of the closet and set it on the dining room table. I put the record on and listened to a conversation between two people, in Spanish,  But no matter how many times I played the record, no matter how hard I listened, I understood nothing. I cried myself to sleep that night. Learning Spanish was beyond my ability. 

At the end of the semester, I received a D in Spanish. I was grateful. That meant that I’d passed and would not have to repeat the class. 

Although I’ve never learned Spanish, I have learned a new language. It is called the language of love. When I  first heard the language of love many years ago I was in deep despair and close to taking my own life as my Dad had. But instead, I heard Jesus speak these words to me, “You can choose life,” and I did. 

How did I know those words were from Jesus? A week or so prior, I’d attended church for the first time in many years. I remembered the words, “Jesus can change your life,” from the sermon. So, when I was given the opportunity to choose life, I did.

Since then, I’ve practiced listening to the language of love. I learn it by reading the Bible, and books written by authors who also know the language of love. Over the years of practiced listening, I now understand phrases such as, don’t be anxious, don’t be afraid, come to me, my burden is light, and I am for you not against you. 

Why bother learning a new language? Though I never did learn Spanish, hearing and responding to the language of love gives me life every day. 

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