Confession: I am horrible at speaking foreign languages. I can’t get the accent right and most of the time I mispronounce some part of the words. Does the “o” sound like “out” or “book”? I have no idea. It’s pretty bad, especially when you take into account the amount of traveling I do.
In high school, I took Spanish I and II classes. Over the years, I’ve spent time in Costa Rica and Spain, 6 straight weeks in Puerto Rico (and even returned for another week the next summer) and now 10 days in Ecuador. AND I live (and teach) in Florida – the home of many Latinas. So after all of that exposure to Spanish, you would imagine that I could carry on a conversation in Spanish, right? Wrong. Completely wrong. I can talk to little kids really well. Actually, scratch that. I can say stuff that a little kid would say but my accent is so bad that little kids have a harder time understanding me. If someone speaks slowly enough and without any slang, I can generally pick up on the overall topic of the conversation, which is why it’s mind boggling that I can’t speak the language any better than I do. I’ve realized, after spending time in Ecuadoran schools, that teenagers who have spent ample time in English classes are my best conversation partners. Here are the key phrases I’ve got down in Spanish (besides where is the bathroom. I feel like everyone knows that one):
¿Qué es tu nombre? – What is your name? ¿Cuántos años tienes? – How old are you?
¿Y tú? – And you? Yo soy profesora de historia. – I teach history.
Now this next thing is my big finish. This is my claim to Spanish speaking fame. I can say an entire complex sentence AND understand exactly what each word means AND ask students questions about what the words mean in Spanish.
Romanos 6:23 “Porque la paga del pecado es muerte, pero que el regalo de Dios es vida eterna en Cristo Jesús, nuestro Señor.”
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And despite my lacking bilingual skills, God was able to to break through the communication barrier with the students using this scripture. No, I did not fully understand the answers that came back from the students when I asked them questions about who Christ is and what sin looks like in our day to day lives, but the translators were able help with that. Through these conversations, students began understanding that the only way to God and eternal life is through Jesus – rather than just being a good person. And these conversations were being held in a language that I don’t speak. Whoa. God really can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), like have me teach the Gospel in Spanish. Certainly never thought I would be able to say that!