Working in South America as a missionary church planter requires money, time, and the ability to speak the language of the people, Spanish. Now, being from “South America,” that is, Mississippi, my English is not what you get from a standard textbook. Our southern drawl sometimes gives four syllables to four letter words, none of our vowels are truly long, and our slang is, to put it mildly, other-worldly.
I’ve discovered that Spanish is no different. I spent time earlier this summer cooped up in a car for days with two young guys, both of whom live around Lima, Peru. Imagine my surprise when they would be speaking to one another and neither could figure out the right word to use in a certain context. That didn’t help me a bit trying to figure out what to say. I couldn’t tell if I was complimenting someone about their accomplishment or asking them how to get to the bathroom.
So. . . coming back to the States, I’ve become convinced that I need to really learn Spanish; how to read it, how to understand it and, for sure, how to speak it–at least good enough to carry on a basic conversation. So. . .I drove over to the local community college today and filled out their standard application. The dear lady sitting at the receptionist desk in the registrars office looked over my application, complimented me on my penmanship, and told me I’d have to supply copies of my high school and college transcripts as well as proof of my scores for both ACT and SAT. I looked across her desk and said, “Do you have any idea how old I am?” supposing that surely she has looked at the box where I printed my birthdate.
“Well,” she replied, “that’s required of all new applicants for any of our degree programs.” Well, I thought, I can handle this ’cause I’m not looking for credit nor a degree. I have plenty of both. After a few more minutes of back and forth, we established that I just need to “register” for the class and “audit” the course(s). Surely, I thought, this will be easy. Pay my money, buy my text, sit through some classes, and viola, I know Spanish.
Oh contrare. . .I have to go through “registration.” I remember going through registration in days long past–standing in long lines, talking to administrators and counselors, signing up for classes, paying fees and then trying to find the classroom where I’d sit for months trying to make sense of the coursework. Yep, believe it or not, gotta do it again. In about a week, hundreds of kids young enough to be my grandchildren will converge on that beautiful campus, texting on their smartphones, dressed like the Bieber and Selena, speaking yet another form of English that I don’t know, everyone of them trying to act like they are adults when we all know they are not.
I’m too old for this. . .and yet, I’ll be right there with my bald head and my faded jeans, hoping I can connect with them on some faint level. Why? I need to learn Spanish so that when I go back to South America in December, the day after Christmas, I can somewhat intelligently communicate with the people and tell them about Jesus!