Overcoming the Language Barrier
“Hablas Español?” is a question I dread having to answer. “No, muy poco”. Being in Mexico, I have to rely on other people for every daily interaction and it is very humbling. I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by the social support of the other interns. They are so willing to help and never seem to get annoyed or frustrated, even though all the while I am frustrated and annoyed at myself. My days fluctuate between moments of feeling inadequate and feeling accomplished, but it is this battle that makes this internship experience so meaningful.
A prime example of this balancing act was my first English class on Thursday night. I was extremely nervous and wondered to myself, “How did I get here? Can I even help these people? Who am I, to try and ‘teach’ these individuals who are undoubtedly so much wiser than myself?” And in the beginning I truly struggled, with the material and my self-confidence. But I had to keep going, I couldn’t run away from my fears and doubts, and I had to look for help from my great volunteers Kathleen and Juan David. About halfway through the class I could finally feel myself starting to relax. We all got in a circle and did an activity practicing simple sentences and I could physically see and hear that the students were learning; I realized I was actually making an impact. The last 15 minutes of class all the levels (beginner intermediate and advanced) came together for an icebreaker bingo activity and I had so much fun interacting with everyone, despite the small amount of language we shared. I left that class a little shaken but also energized and ready for the next one. In fact, that night I edited and added to the curriculum for next Tuesday’s class. That’s why I love that this internship really challenges and pushes me outside of my comfort zone. You can’t feel proud of your accomplishments if you never had a challenge to overcome in the first place. As recently as one year ago, I don’t think I would have been able to do what I did in that classroom. During that first class my students taught me more than I taught them. I learned that human interaction goes beyond just language, I learned that it’s not a sign of weakness, but strength, to rely on other people’s help, and I also learned that I can make a difference during my short time here in Mexico.