The Importance of Speaking Another Language- Brook McIntyre
Spanish, Spanish, Spanish all the time. Although I have been in Spanish classes for
most of my school life, I didn’t know very much when we first arrived in Chile. And despite the
fact my Spanish proficiency was a little questionable, I talked with anyone and everyone who
would laugh at my mistakes and keep talking with me. In Choshuenco, there were many
conversations like this. Towards the beginning of our time there I noticed a man sitting on a bench
in front of his house everyday. At first I only asked him how he was doing or where the fruiteria
was, but nothing more. After dinner one evening I was walking with Ellie and Dawn and we
stopped to talk with him some more. I asked him how his day went, he always told us we
brighten his day with our attentive “hola” and “como esta” as we passed by. We continued to
talk and he started to talk about his age. I thought he had been talking about his age now, and I
heard that he is 92 so I was amazed and said I was sixteen. I had been wrong in my translation
and instead of him talking about his age now he was telling us how old he was when he had
gotten married. He was nineteen when he married his wife and they had nine children together.
Moments like this in which I make simple mistakes create so many learning experiences and help
my Spanish even more.
Throughout Chile we have put a lot of hard work into our spanish conversational challenges.
They have been an essential part of our time in Chile and helped us to make connections and
relationships with people in other parts of the world. We have met people from Australia, France,
the United States and Chile to name a few. When we went the Mapuche village, the indigenous people
of Chile, we met a kayaker from France who was staying with the Mapuche for the summer.
When talking with him, neither of us could use our native language, so we both spoke our second language. We all thought it was so interesting how we used a language totally different than what we are best at to have a conversation. I had never heard
Spanish in a French accent before and it was a moment where we gained new perspective and
learned more about the importance of languages on the world.
I have also had to use my Spanish to help the group accomplish goals. On our backpacking
trip trough Cochamo valley I had to use my Spanish to ask other hikers what the trails were like
after all the rain. Lily was my partner during the day and we went to ask some hikers
who were standing near a map. They asked us many questions about our equipment and told
us how dangerous the trail that we were planning on taking was without specific equipment.
They said there was a traverse over a steep slab of granite that you needed a harness and
caribeaners to cross. They also showed us pictures of a waterfall that had formed on the slab
from all of the unrelenting rain. We used our Spanish to lead our group to a successful day
of hiking and chose a different trail for a safer and more fun experience. The spanish I have
learned has been so fun and useful. I have loved all parts of our expedition in Chile, but I
know I will use the Spanish I learn for the rest of my life.