Since returning from Spain I have spoken to many people about my trip, mostly about my home stay, and my home stay family. When speaking about my trip I always get the same question; did your family speak English? In response I simply smile and say no. The next question that follows is ‘well was it hard to communicate?’ My answer is always at first it was but most of the time there wasn’t a problem. I am telling you this because I feel shameful by my second answer. I think one of my favorite parts of my experience was working through the barrier; I would therefore like to share with you all a story that is one of the most memorable from my trip with The Experiment in International Living.
One of my other favorite moments in Getxo was with my older host brother, Ander, and his girlfriend, Ainhoa. Ainhoa rides horses and asked me if I’d like to ride one day, and I the suburban girl from Connecticut, of course said yes. So one day we woke up early and went to the farm about twenty minutes out of town. Ainhoa had a riding lesson before she could take me, so Ander, two of Ainhoa’s cousins, and I just hung out at the farm for a while. At one point Ander was telling me what different types of animals were at the farm. I knew all the names of the animals (in Spanish) except for one. I asked him what this animal was and he told me he couldn’t remember the word in English, and tried to describe it in Spanish.
It was obviously bothering Ander, as he gave some hilarious impressions of this animal, that he couldn’t explain the animal to me. The simple thing would have been to walk up and see the mystery animal; however for some reason he didn’t want to. Instead, he asked like five different people, even interrupting Ainhoa during her lesson, if they knew the word. No one did.
The whole thing to me was really funny. There had been many other things that I didn’t understand earlier in my home stay which I hadn’t understood, and this farm animal was the one thing that Ander was getting agitated (with himself, not me) when the language barrier came into play.
Eventually, after about 10 minutes, Ander gave up. He said that he would just look in my dictionary when we got home and tell me the animal. So a few hours later, we were sitting around and I remembered that he still hadn’t told me the animal. So I went and got my dictionary and gave it to him. Ander’s agitation was the result of the two of us not knowing the word ‘goat’ in one another’s languages.
I am highly aware that this story may not seem like much, but to me it means a lot. I loved having the language barrier with my family. I feel that it brought us closer together because we discussed silly things like the word goat. If we had spoken the same language these things would have never have been made a big deal.
I have learned that sometimes the big, overhyped attractions of a country may not what be the things that define foreign countries. I have learned that sometimes all people need to get along is the patience to work through a barrier similar to how Ander and I did. I have learned that many things get lost in translation however if people truly try any silly thing can be understood.
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