Saturday, March 7, 2015

Slice of Life Story Challenge - What I Know For Sure - Language Barriers

     It's Day 7 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, started by Two Writing Teachers.  I am writing around the theme topic of "What I Know For Sure." (See Day 1 for a full explanation.)
     I've been fortunate to travel to a few countries in my lifetime.  I didn't start serious traveling until I was an adult when I got to go to Paris and Amsterdam in 2010 and then to Spain in 2012.  Those trips were amazing, and I'll never forget them.  However, I was only a tourist on those trips, and I was able to get by with the extremely limited vocabulary I had in those countries.
     "Buenos noches."
     You get the picture.  Pitiful.  Language barriers intimidate me.  I've never been good at learning other languages.  I took French for four years in high school and two years in college, and the above French words are about all I gained.  Sad.  I always feel like I'm going to sound like an idiot if I try out conversing in another language, and my lack of foreign language skills doesn't help.  It amazes me that my oldest daughter, Libby, is a Spanish minor and won the Spanish award in high school.  Where did she get that??!
     There are two trips, though, in which I had to be more than a passing traveler, getting by with avoiding conversations that required real communication other than ordering a meal and asking where the bathroom was located (even that intimidated me).  I took a mission trip with Libby and her youth group to Mexico in 2010 and to Czech Republic with Katie and a small mission group from my church last summer.  In both places, I marveled at the people who could bridge that communication gap so effortlessly and fearlessly - especially the young people on both trips.  My tactic was to avoid one-on-one conversations altogether, blending into the background as much as possible, or to always have someone who could speak Spanish or Czech with me.   
     Two events stood out to me on both these trips.  There was a night in Mexico and Czech Republic when we didn't have to talk much. It was the most fun I had in both places!  In Piste, the townspeople where we stayed put on a birthday party for one of our youth leaders, and in Bedrichov, we had a talent show on the last night of English camp.  We sang, played games, laughed, and played instruments. Worship services also included music.  Even when the words were sung in another language, familiar tunes filled the soul.  Those events showed me that we had connected in spite of my reluctance to speak those other languages.  Joy transcended that gap.  We enjoyed each other's company and found some things we had in common...the love of laughter and music. A smile, a hand reaching out for a dance, a musical note, a head tossed back with a laugh...a connection.
A mariachi band!

                                                                  Birthday party fun!

                                                                   Sunday worship service
A Czech tongue twister!
A spontaneous birthday celebration

The dynamic devotions duo!

Talent show and costumes!
What I Know For Sure: Laughter, fun, and music break down language and culture barriers.  When we laugh, sing, dance, play instruments, and have fun together, it doesn't matter what language(s) we speak.  We all crave connection, and if we did more singing and laughing across the world, it would be a better place.  And I can't even sing.


  1. Connecting, singing and laughing makes the world better and lots more fun.

  2. I'm like you, totally intimidated by languages. I've been to Italy, Greece, and France where English was enough to get by. But in Chile, there were people who didn't even know English exists. We stood out, tall and blonde and foreign. I wanted to crawl in a space and hide. Maybe I should have started singing? Laughter and music cross all boundaries.

  3. Another beautiful post! Your faith and family roots give you such a solid foundation not only in life, but also in the perspective from where you stories emanate. The vulnerability woven throughout this story make it all the more endearing. My favorite part, is the last line, partly because it made me laugh, and partly because I think your warmth, compassion, and kindness surely break down any barriers that your singing may not be able to.

  4. I feel the same about my language learning and conversing. On our last trip a few weeks ago, Dave and I started to be able to follow some conversation (our daughter and her fam.) are missionaries there. It made us want to come home and get a tutor to do conversation with us...and renewed energy for Rosetta Stone. Last summer we had people from Czech republic come to our house....they each could speak so fluently in English....they both had 3 different languages. It was a priority.

    The song that ministered so much to me in Spanish...was Our God is an Awesome God. Thank you so much for sharing. xo nanc

  5. Your Czech video won't play. It's marked as private. Like you, foreign language study doesn't stick w/ me.

    1. Oops! I fixed it - thanks for letting me know!

  6. Holly, I remember when we went to Turkey to visit Annie. I was so intimidated by not knowing much of the language. All of the things you say is true. Another thing I noticed was that mothers are mothers no matter where they come from. They love wholeheartedly and unconditionally. I was so grateful to Annie's host mother.

  7. I love visiting other countries! It's true that singing and laughing connect us. I also love how play can reach across barriers. The two evenings you describe were filled with play.

  8. I love this line: What I Know For Sure: Laughter, fun, and music break down language and culture barriers. "
    I appreciate the post in that you also model using embedded media. It helps me to experience what you write.

    There's lots of ways to communicate and connect. Gesture, music can go a long way:)

  9. Holly, I can't imagine you not connecting with the people!! Your genuine spirit and love of people will always transcend any language barrier there might be! So glad to get another peek at your mission trips! Do you have anything planned for this year?

  10. I enjoyed reading your post. I agree with you about language barriers. I share your "gift" for language. Your daughter sounds remarkable.

  11. It's so wonderful how you went on these mission trips.
    It will be so amazing when we are all together worshiping our Lord together!