My experience in learning Spanish for mission

Sainiana Tamatawale
March 15, 2011

When I reached the airport at Mexico I was expanding my mind how can I ask someone to show me  the way  to the autobus terminal to Cuernavaca. I had the direction with me how to get to Cuernavaca but the where is the autobus terminal I have to look for it. The Filipino language, Tagalog, was with me.

Sainiana Tamatawale, lay missionay for Columban Fathers

Sainiana Tamatawale

I used it to ask the security man, I realized when he didn’t understand me, so I told him mentioning, the bus to Cuernavaca. I saw a sign of a bus there; I pointed at it and said to Cuernavaca. So he understood me and he pointed the way to the terminal, so I went. I laughed to myself and felt how difficult when to communicate not knowing the language and English.

I struggled to understand Spanish the first time because the course was in Spanish and the teachers speak little English, and some none at all.  I translate in English to understand and sometimes I explain in Tagalog. In conversation class in talking about something to practice my Spanish, I sometimes speak Spanish Tagalog. Studying other language is a good interesting and learning experience.

She said, “You are the only student who I felt open to share my life story.” I saw her felt emotion, joy and laughter. I was surprised. I am not only learning the language but also sharing life with my teacher. I learned from her she learned from me.

There was one teacher that many students don’t like because of her personality: serious, strict. She was my teacher the first two weeks I started the language class. She speaks very little English. I struggled and did my best to translate to English so to understand. I heard from many students that they don’t like her. When our secretary asked me to have her as my teacher, I told her I will think about it. When I thought of it I realized that she’s doing her best to teach and help us to understand and we have to help her also. The next day I told the secretary, can she be my teacher for grammar, she laughed because I have agreed to have her be my teacher. One day in class I asked her, “Have you studied other language?” She said ‘No,’ then I shared to her my experience, what I went through and felt when studying another language.

The next week I saw a bit of change in her ways of teaching, able to listen and understand, laugh and joke. She told me one day that she wants to study English and she did apply. She now realizes when studying other languages and told me it’s very difficult to speak and learn another language, so we have to go slowly and practice it. We helped each other and I get along well with my teacher.

My last day with her, she shared with me something that she hardly shares to anybody else or even to other students about her life, even when they ask her personal questions. She said, “You are the only student who I felt open to share my life story.” I saw her felt emotion, joy and laughter. I was surprised. I am not only learning the language but also sharing life with my teacher. I learned from her she learned from me.

Mexico has a history of old and sacred places. Learning the history, culture and language of Mexico was a great learning opportunity for me. It has given me some ideas of who the Mexican people are, and will help me in living with them and eating their food. It also helped me to understand and accept them, learn what motivates them, and encourages me to know and learn more in living with the people of Anapra, all the while sharing hope and faith with each other.

Sainiana is a lay missionary in Anapra, Mexico