Almost 11 years ago I began a two year mission for my church in Lima and southern coastal Peru. It was a wonderful experience and shaped who I am and how I try to live my life. One of the most practical skills I gained is fluency in Spanish. Unfortunately fluency is subjective and can fade with time and lack of practice. Fluency, in my estimation, is the ability to communicate comfortably and includes:
- Having and maintaining conversations
- Familiarity with the rules and common usage of the language
I practice Spanish as much as I am able, speaking with my wife (she also served a Spanish speaking mission), always trying to speak Spanish with native speakers when I encounter them, reading Peruvian news occasionally, and fighting to teach my children some vocabulary. When at home in the United States my Spanish often feels labored, but within a couple days of returning to Peru,1 I feel like I could speak all day long.
There is one part of my life where I have not been able to integrate my second tongue, my career. My wife, a doctor, faced a similar realization when she worked with Spanish speaking physicians on our trip to Lima and Huancayo last spring. Even though they are saying similar things and doing many of the same procedures Spanish Medical terminology is not an obvious translation of English Medical terminology. Even though my wife is comfortable speaking Spanish and is an excellent conversationalist on a variety of topics, she had to learn medical Spanish the same way she had to learn medical English in medical school. I think the same thing is probably true in my field.
So, I’m going to try an experiment. Starting now, I will write Spanish versions of some of my blog posts.2 I’m hoping this will help me become more fluent in my profession when I communicate with Spanish speakers. There are growing design and web communities in many countries in Latin America and I would love to be able to speak with them. So if you are a Spanish speaker and would like to read what I have to say, hit the Español button and check it out. Please let me know if you notice errors, everything I’ve learned to this point was because people pointed out better, more correct ways to say things.3 Gracias.
I’ve been lucky enough to return a few times since my mission ↩︎
I’d like to commit to translating all future blog posts, but I have learned that adding too many impediments to publishing just means I won’t do it as often. Good intentions sink ships, or something like that. ↩︎
When I was in the Missionary Training Center I was told to ask children to correct your Spanish. Adults will, generally, try spare your feelings and let mistakes go uncorrected, while children have no such compunction. ↩︎