Coffee con Leche: The Question
Moving is a challenge, y’all. No es fácil. The simplest tasks become a problem. Imagine going to a store to buy a “hanger,” but you don’t know the word in the language. Guys. I was always the worst at charades. I wanted a percha and the lady went to the back and brought back curtains. Attempt number 2: She brought back clothespins. Attempt number 3: She brought back a drying rack to hang clothes. In the end, we both learned an important lesson: always refer to Google translator before you leave the house.
With these daily challenges describing my day-to-day life, the question I get all the time without fail:
“So, like, are you fluent now or what?”
I’ve been here for two years and a few months. I can comunicarme and expresarme easily; however, there’s still a large thinking process that happens when I have a conversation. Here’s a flow chart to help you understand #TheStruggle:
Listen > Comprehend > Analyze > Formulate Response > Respond
My child, in all that time you could’ve baked a dozen cupcakes and served it up with some coffee con leche. Sheesh. The process is slower than slow!
LISTEN, LINDA, LISTENNNN
Why exactly does this question bother me so much?
- Expectations vs. Reality – You expect your expat friends to master an entire language in a short time, but in reality… I still forget the word for “hammer.” (Yes, I just Google translated it to remember, dang it.)
- I practice with my local friends, have immersed myself completely, and continue to push myself daily… but complete fluency takes a very long time, and it’s frustrating. Hearing this question heightens my self-awareness that I’m just not there yet. Your intentions may be well, but now I’m self-critiquing my level of proficiency to try and answer your question.
- Based on how you ask, the question can seem a bit impatient and judgmental. If I answer no, I feel the need to justify why I’m not quite there yet because I feel judged for saying no. If I answer yes, well, my friends are the type who will immediately try to quiz me with something ridiculous. “Alright if you’re fluent, how do you say ‘the zombie jumped into the bird’s nest to steal some grapefruit custard?’” Yes. Those are my type of friends.
As you can see, the question is a lot deeper than you may think. Of course, I understand some people may ask this question out of simple curiosity, but imagine being asked this by the majority of your friends back at home. It can cause quite a bit of anxiety after a while.
SÍ SE PUEDE
Regardless of all my silly Spanish aventuras, I still remain optimistic. Heck, I’ll forever know the word percha without any problem. Just like the song, des-pa-cito, I’m internalizing that the journey doesn’t happen overnight. Every time I’m asked this question, it motivates me to push myself harder. One day, I will absolutely be able to answer it with a solid, “sí.”
When is that fluency going to happen for me? Who knows. But, the day my wildly hilarious humor translates properly into another language, I will then consider myself fully fluent. Until then, I’ll keep trying, even if no one will even throw me a fake laugh at my jokes in Spanish…