The Courage to Learn – An Ode to Helen Keller

Before heading out to Mexico I (Jacquie) told people that I wasn’t starting at ground zero in regards to knowing Spanish but definitely couldn’t carry much of a conversation. I could pick up a few words and say a few simple phrases (in the present tense) but that was about all. Now with 8 – 3 hour classes under my belt at times I am amazed at how much more I can say or understand but also realize that I am still only playing in the waves of a huge ocean.  To give you a specific example, today I began to learn about the imperfect ie. Cuando tenia diez anos…. (when I was 10 years old -not including the accent over the i in tenia) – here I can’t just use the preterit because I am describing a past experience.  Tonight, for my homework I am to write a complete story from my past to tell to my teacher tomorrow. I will stop with all the details now – but I thought I’d give you a more specific look into the halls of spanish class.  I have labeled this blog entry “The Courage to Learn – an Ode to Helen Keller” first because it definitely takes courage to take on learning any language. I would add it takes some courage to study languages like Greek and Hebrew (as is my past experience) simply because it does take work – but learning a language so you can actually speak it I think is on a whole new level. Even Rick, who I would often speak proudly of because of the abilities he has to speak Spanish is coming home with “grammar” headaches. But not only headaches, many ah ha moments as he’s learning new modes of communication that were previously unknown to him. For its one thing to begin to learn how to translate your English thoughts and words into direct corresponding Spanish ones, but eventually if you really want to speak a language you have to learn the added details of how a native speaker would really be able to use the language to express themselves.

In addition, at this point I’d give myself about a 5 out of 10 on the courage factor for I am attempting to speak Spanish to others outside of my class. For example to the “madre” of our house, her family, Rick, or others at our school. But speaking to a stranger, yikes, that’s a level of courage I haven’t quite attained to very often yet especially if it means acquiring some information that is quite important to me or my family… for now I leave those situations up to Rick. I know I’m going to have to go there soon. So by now you might be wondering where is the bit about Helen Keller going to come in. Well here it is… I you don’t know Helen Keller was an extremely courageous and ambitious young lady who was born in the late 1800’s and was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree, not to mention she learns to speak, and learns 3 different languages! She was not deafblind at birth but became so during a illness when she was 1 1/2 years old – can you imagine what that would suddenly be like for Hilary? I have been reading her  autobiographical story and am finding much inspiration and hope from

Helen Keller

her life. She write of her thoughts going into college:”I knew that there were obstacles in the way; but I was eager to overcome them.” And so, in my own journey of learning to speak Spanish (and yes I recognize that they say its probably one of the easiest languages for english speaking people to learn) I too recognize there will be many highs and lows yet to come – moments of excitement that I can speak without thinking so hard and moments that I feel frustrated that I can’t say anything – but like Helen I remain until this point, eager to face the obstacles yet ahead.

For young kids you might want to try – “Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark” by Johanna Hurwitz.

Note: Here are my comments in regards to the courage of my family:

Rick – Really he isn’t shy to try to say anything but I’m not one to give a 10 out too easily. Although I should note I am getting a chance to write this post because he took the kids to the park!

Ezra – As a mother, in regards to his age and all the changes he’s going through I am extremely proud of him and his willingness to also take 3 –  hour long classes each day. As an analytical person I would have to be honest and say he is quite timid to say many words quite yet although he is now courageously saying “gracias” to our “madre” after every meal and if you catch him in the right mood he’ll try others as well especially to Norma, his teacher. Yeah Ezzie!

Hilary – I think i’ve heard Hilary say, gracias, hola, cinco (5) and pan (bread) – pretty good for almost 21 month old!

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