Saturday, October 18, 2014

No Soy Yo: On Being Myself in Another Language

Ok.  We all know learning another language isn't easy, but expressing yourself...that's the hard part.

When you speak in your native language it feels natural.  You can crack a joke without thinking, have small talk with ease, and express yourself as an individual.  In another language it's just not the same: you fumble for words, your sarcasm doesn't come through, and cultural jokes are lost on you.

Being away from loved ones certainly doesn't help either
I can understand, have conversations, and produce Spanish.  But even with how much my Spanish has improved living abroad I still don't feel like myself.  I'm no poet, but in English the words have always come easily (excellent for all that SAT prep) but in Spanish I feel more like I'm the equivalent of a ten-year old child.  And not even a very funny one.

I know fitting in is always hard, especially being a naturally shy person, and moving abroad is no exception.  It's a frustrating circle of struggling to express myself, disliking my inability to express the real me in Spanish, and feeling further anxiety at the thought of struggling to express myself in the next social situation. Ugh.
Cracking jokes with my BFF back home
Speaking Spanish, especially the fear of speaking it incorrectly and inadequately (even though I know it's incredibly silly) has led me to just keep quiet.  I kept pulling the whole "try and make yourself invisible" that we all know never works.  I know the irrational fear of my Spanish causing me to be laughed out of a room has only been made worse by my anxiety, but knowing this didn't always make it easier.

So as this new year began I've finally realized that, after years of struggling to reconcile the real me with the "Spanish" me, the fear holding me back is pointless.  My Spanish won't get better if I'm too afraid to speak it.  And the more I hold back the progress of my Spanish the longer I stifle my personal expression.  Not to mention if I've never judged anyone for making mistakes in English why would I be judged for imperfect Spanish?  Answer: I can't let fear hold me back forever.  
Definitely speaks to me this year.
I know it was a brave thing picking up my entire life and moving to another continent, to start over in a new city, a new culture.  But as I remember the little girl who walked into my grandmother's Spanish classroom unashamed to babble in Spanish and share herself, I think that maybe it's time to be brave again.  To allow myself to make mistakes in Spanish, to share myself more freely, and to not be so afraid of just being me.

 Plus speaking Spanish can't be as scary as jumping out of a plane, can it?

How has your experience been expressing yourself in a different language?