So this post is off my norm. I have decided I have to learn Spanish.
For many years, my parish’s hispanic community has been served by a fabulous deacon, Jesus, who sadly had to move due to work. He has been gone almost a year now, and I have suddenly realized over the last few months just how large a hole he left behind.
Don’t get me wrong, our priest has worked very hard to serve this community as best as he can, but we have one priest serving three churches, and he needs all the help he can get. While I know how much he loves working with this community, the help that I try to be for our other communities has not translated to this community. A priest is a priest, and a deacon is a deacon. A deacon is not really needed for the Sacraments, but he is very helpful in service, and this is just what they are currently missing.
Sure, I go to their events, and I know the kids. I have done several fiesta de quince años for families in English. I have had most of the families go through my Confirmation class at some point and both know them by name, and pray for them daily, but that is not the same thing as belonging to the community. The language barrier has kept me even from assisting at Mass with them, and that just cannot continue.
It all came to a head when there was a scheduling conflict a couple months ago and they called me one evening to do benediction for them, right then. I think they had thought I was scheduled to help as Father was out of town, and I assumed they were right and I had somehow scheduled myself badly. (It was not my fault, come to later find out, but that’s irrelevant.) As I came to help, I realized I was completely unprepared. I can hardly count in Spanish, and suddenly I’m leading a Spanish service. (I just went for Latin thinking that would be safe, it was not…)
It was a lot like this! Minus the fire…
Needless to say, I did very badly. It was positively humorous. A real comedy of errors, I realized that I was not serving this community well at all, and it was only because of my own stubbornness about taking the time to learn their language. If I really want to love them, and speak for them, I need to be able to speak to them.
So I am learning Spanish at high speed. I have no idea what I’m doing. I feel like a complete idiot at every step, and only knowing English my whole life, I am quickly realizing I have no idea how to learn so massive a subject. So here’s my current plan:
- I have scheduled to meet with Spanish speakers two nights a week to practice, I am hoping to build this up to five nights once I have more sadists who don’t mind listening to infantile babbling for an hour.
- I have an audio course I’m going through every day. I don’t like it much, but I can play it and work at the same time.
- I have a flash card course to beat the most used 5000 Spanish words into my memory I do every day. (Anki)
- I’m reading interesting articles and stuff in LingQ every day. (I’m currently muscling through JRR Tolkiens “The Hobbit”)
- I’m using a silly game app when I’m sitting in random places on my phone. (Duolingo)
- I have the local Spanish radio station playing in my car, and I’m trying to pick out every word I know as I drive.
- I’m watching kid shows in Spanish on Youtube when I’m tired and lying on my couch. (I’m missing my Fulton Sheen reruns…)
- I’m going to every Spanish event that I can make. (December is going to kill me, I’m sure. They are very, very busy in December!)
And there you have it. I’m hoping I can have a basic conversation with parents as to why they need to bring their kids to Mass, and read the Gospel and maybe even a prepared homily within six months. That’s my big plan.
Are you a master polyglot? (speaker of many languages) If so, a few pointers would be awesome!