The Real Reason to Learn Spanish is Beyond Words!

Authenticate your travel beyond words!

How ironic: it turns out that the real reason to learn a language is to

feel something that’s beyond words!

This summer, Core Fluency and six Intermediate students settled for one week in the tiny beach town of Sayulita, Mexico. Since it was low season, the normal crowds of English-speaking tourists were absent, and we had full access to a town that welcomed us with the time, space, and opportunities to speak Spanish with the locals. In addition to Spanish classes in our house (just steps from the beach), the majority of classes were held in town as guided experiences (from scavenger hunts to mapping activities to home visits), to focus on building confidence when giving directions, shopping, ordering food, or meeting new people.

The last day was one of the most powerful. Students wandered the streets on their last afternoon to soak up the amazing town, to shop, or to return to say goodbye or to give gifts to people they had met. By that time, everyone’s confidence in speaking Spanish had risen and their inhibitions had disappeared — and that is when the magic happened! We spent a few hours on one street talking with families and kids who were selling handmade stuffed animals and a woman selling frozen hibiscus juice from her home. What would seem to be a simple experience of buying a refreshing snack or a toy turned out to be an emotional, touching experience!

The conversations, the jokes, the laughter, and the smiles that filled the few hours were an incredible testament to the fact that we don’t just learn Spanish to make our lives simpler when traveling, but to be moved by our experiences when traveling, to deepen the encounters with others, to have culturally rich & real connections involving emotions, and to grow personally. All sorts of boundaries were broken down when we could laugh, explain, talk about interests in common, joke and flirt, compliment, sympathize, and give and receive something that was simply beyond words!  

That is what I bring back to my teaching this fall: a remembrance of the bigger picture, the bigger goal to be part of something larger than my narrow life in Denver, and to give to others the gift of being able to open doors, find connections, enrich their lives, and have a feeling like we did on that side street in Sayulita – using the words of Spanish to meet others in that place beyond words.

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