“Take a deep breath, ok?” my host sister Helena said. ”Breathe into your back and let your ribs expand.”
Sounds easy, right? No, not easy at all.
Earlier this week, my hermana (sister) taught me that I haven’t been breathing to my full potential. She plans to teach private Pilates lessons, and in exchange for a little help with English, she is teaching me Pilates in our spare time.
She is also teaching me how to take a break. Lately, I feel like I have been trying to fit too many activities into my already busy schedule. ”I have to get the most out of my time here!” I tell myself. But when I come home after a 12-hour-day doing everything from running in the park, talking with my tutor, going to class, teaching English to make some extra money and going to a choir rehearsal, it doesn’t give me much time to just soak everything in. How will I ever become fluent in Spanish if I can’t even breathe?
Relaxing = important key to success.
Sometimes your body takes drastic measures to get you to relax. Right now I’m sitting on the couch while my host mom makes soup to help me feel better. When my host sister went on a hunt for Tylenol she said, ”A veces estar enferma es una señal que necesitas parar.” (Sometimes not feeling well is a sign that you need to stop.) Boy is that ever true.
My host family is awesome. Besides making soup for me, my host mom corrects my Spanish and makes sure I can find the right bus. But even more than that, she makes sure that everyone else in the house speaks at a pace I can understand and that I benefit from her homeopathic medicine knowledge. My host sisters act like my sister in Ohio. They tease me almost as much as she does. Last night we stayed up until 2:00 a.m. talking about everything from wine to cockroaches. All in Spanish of course.
Just keep speaking, just keep speaking.
All of the believers at the Way Bible fellowship in Madrid tell my friends and me to keep speaking more Spanish. “Necesitáis hablar más en Español,” (You need to speak more Spanish!) Cosmos, a believer from the Congo, tells us over and over. And he’s right. After speaking Spanish in my house, in school, with my students and to myself (when no one’s watching), I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of it.
Humor helps, especially when you make mistakes. I may have told someone in my choir that I am going to the school of “Los Mariscos” (school of the shellfish) instead of Los Maristas (a religious order), but hey, I’m still learning.
“Reirse de uno mismo, cómo mucho humor a ti misma” is my new refrain. “Laugh at yourself.” Well it’s definitely true that a merry heart doeth good like a medicine. I’m feeling better already.
How do you know when your Spanish is improving?
When you don’t need to listen to every word just the overall meaning of the sentence. When you don’t have to think as hard when you are talking to someone. And when you can tranlate a song from French into English even though your first language is Spanish…that’s when you’ve really arrived (although my english student Marina is the only person I know who can do that).
Pretty soon, you are reading signs in Spanish, ordering bread at the bakery in Spanish, telling a random person on the street “Look it’s snowing!” in Spanish and actually understanding her response and thinking in Spanish. But the most important thing that I’m learning, little by little, is to take time to breathe.