Mark Chung ’21 describes the importance of a full immersion when learning a language.
Over the past few days, we have experienced the deep and multifaceted aspects of Spanish culture, from its love of food to its rich history of growth. This weekend was no different, as we explored the streets of Seville for two days. Throughout this trip, we explored Andalucia’s unique position as a crossroads for Christian, Islamic, and Jewish peoples and their individual cultures, looking at their subtle influences in architecture, language, and art. Learning about this history was particularly fascinating, as I saw how ultimately, people of seemingly opposing traditions were able to develop such a deep culture. Today, we got back to our regular schedule in Cádiz, starting off with our daily morning classes. Beyond grammar and vocabulary, I have found that our lessons in Spanish culture have helped me the most throughout this trip.
Last week, we spent a class discussing Spanish idioms, working together to discern their meanings. This lesson in particular allowed me to realize how much I took language for granted. In our everyday lives, whether it be at Deerfield or beyond, we inevitably find comfort in our mother tongues, not realizing the deep nuances that are often difficult for those learning the language. We looked upon our page of nonsensical phrases, puzzled. As we worked through the activity, I began to appreciate the challenges of learning languages at a deeper level. In order to truly understand a language, it is critical to explore the culture and history of the people behind it, and this experience has allowed me to begin to scratch its surface. At the beginning of this trip, I had set out to learn about Cádiz’s unique slang and local language, and I hope to further explore this in the coming weeks.
For me, some of the most valuable experiences throughout this trip have been in immersive situations. Whether I was ordering tapas, speaking to locals on the bus, or explaining how I wanted my hair to be cut at a barbershop, I have found myself constantly challenged to broaden my experiences with Spanish to beyond the classroom, placing myself in scenarios unable to be taught through textbooks or vocabulary lists. Although I try to push myself to speak Spanish more, I have all too often defaulted to speaking in English with my peers. The many situations I have found myself in, where I had to find ways to overcome the language barrier, have encouraged me to look more into how language defines people. Throughout the rest of this trip, I hope to not only develop my communication abilities, but also find a deeper appreciation for Spanish language and culture.