I just returned from my second trip to the Dominican Republic. The first was in March, when I was interviewing with HOPE International and I took the trip to see Christ-centered microfinance in action. The trip was perfect—I got to see back office operations, the presence of the Spirit in the clients and staff, the compassionate and knowledgeable loan officers, and the solidarity among our clients that keeps repayment rates so high.
There was only one problem. I had to confront the fact that my Spanish was completely inadequate. I’ve never taken Spanish. I’ve taken one year of French, two years of Latin, and two years of German. So I can count to 10 in several languages but am proficient in none. I resolved on the flight home that I had to become proficient in Spanish. Not just for my work at HOPE—my kids are starting to learn Spanish and I’d love to go through the learning process with them.
Now, the Dominicans that I met could not have been more gracious and forgiving. As I got my “dondes” confused with my “cuandos” they nodded and smiled, then answered my question in both Spanish and English. I wondered if I would be as patient and gracious with non-English speakers in the States.
For Father’s Day my wife and kids got me Rosetta Stone Español (that means “Rosetta Stone Spanish”). As of today, I’m approximately 17 percent of the way through the software, and as I flew back to the D.R. recently for my second trip, I was eager to see the fruits of my labor.
The results were a mixed bag. I found that my reading of the language was improved. Road signs, storefronts, and advertisements were easier to understand. My speaking of the language was slightly improved. When I had the chance to rehearse and get my thoughts together, for example when ordering from a menu, I was OK. The trouble came when I had to listen and respond to others. My mind still processes in English, so by the time I went from Spanish to English to Spanish, my brain completely locked up.
But there was some encouraging progress. I’m so grateful for the patience and grace that my Spanish-speaking friends and colleagues have shown me in my journey, and my tiny bit of progress has been just enough to keep me going. Only 83 percent more Rosetta Stone to go!!