Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hacer Errores by Rachel Black

Beautiful sunset over downtown San José
            I tried to smile and look relaxed as I stood in front of my small Spanish class at the Costa Rican Language Academy in San José. My face was red and my palms were starting to sweat. My hands and voice were shaky and I felt like each sentence was coming out slower and slower. “No, that’s not the right word; that conjugation definitely wasn’t right,” I thought to myself. It was only a small presentation, but I hadn’t been that uncomfortable and my Spanish hadn’t been that jumbled since middle school.
            Before this portion of the trip I knew my knowledge of Spanish was limited, but I kept saying how I was excited to learn a lot and practice during our time in the city. However, when the time came to give a small presentation in front of my class or start speaking Spanish to my host family I was actually incredibly nervous, timid and frustrated that my Spanish wasn’t better. I constantly beat myself up for sounding ridiculous or not being able to express exactly what I wanted to say; then I would become even more frustrated that I was so uncomfortable and afraid to talk. One step forward, two steps back.
            During the first few days I wasn’t looking forward to going to class because I was constantly anxious that I was going to mess up. But as the days progressed I realized that was one of my professor’s main goals: not to make us feel anxious, but to push us outside of our comfort zones. We would be put on the spot and asked to improvise in Spanish, but it wasn’t about constructing the most eloquent sentence possible from vocabulary and grammar we already knew, it was about making mistakes, sounding silly and learning in real time.

            Although this first round of classes only lasted two weeks I saw a huge improvement in my comprehension, grammar, vocabulary and confidence while speaking in Spanish. Most importantly, however, I realized that learning is often about making mistakes yet having grace with myself to learn from them and move on. Just because I “got over” my fear of public speaking when I was younger doesn’t mean I should get frustrated at myself when I become nervous again while speaking in front of others; it’s all part of the process. In life, learning doesn’t follow a perfectly linear trajectory, and these classes have shown me that trading my perfectionistic tendencies for mistakes and grace is what real learning is all about.

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