Words are powerful. It only took two.
The furthest I had travelled was to the Philippines - an experience which did a lot to open my eyes to a bigger world and which welcomed me to the frustrations of language barriers. It was a strange experience to meet new people with whom I couldn’t communicate. I felt so different from them; I felt so foreign. Yet, I knew the differences weren’t that great. If it weren’t for the fact that I only knew two words – the customary please and thank you, I could even have made some friends. On my return, I told my tales, shared my photos and showed off my spoils of bargain shopping. Soon, I even forgot those two little words and life went back to normal.
Since my own travels hadn’t really had a long-lasting effect on me, it came as a surprise to me when soon after, I was moved so much by someone else’s account of their travels. In a flurry of sentences, my fast-speaking friend was recounting story after story of her time away on our school's German Trip. And it was two words that stopped me in my tracks. She had gone “ice-skating ... outdoors”. Such simple words. Still to do this day, I have no idea why they spoke to me like they did, but these two words stood out. I couldn’t get past them.
While it may seem like such a superficial motivation, this dream of going ice-skating outdoors had me suddenly trying a little harder in my German class - a class, I confess, I used to sit in wondering why we had to do it, wondering what use it would ever be. Things had changed though.
Since making it there and eventually satisfying my wish, my life has been enriched in a myriad of ways. I did not expect to fall in love with the country. I did not expect to find true friends there, and I had never thought I would learn to embrace the challenges of learning another language or get such a thrill from the satisfaction of a full conversation in the language of the locals. As an adult, I am so grateful for all that this language has given me. I have countless memories too precious to share. I have people in my life, I care so truly about, whom I know I would never have met if it weren’t for this strange aspiration to go ice-skating outdoors! The passion that then grew from this has given me a career I love and a life much richer than it would otherwise have been.
I no longer ask why I had to learn a language. I am grateful that I could.
And one of the biggest rewards is that every now and again, I get to witness that moment when a couple of obscure words light that spark in the eyes of a student, and their journey begins.
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