Language Exchange

After all the time I spent struggling to find a job, I have been really blessed with this assignment. I get to live in beautiful Barcelonafor a year, teaching English to the students here. Once that time is up, I will be going hometo the United States. I am assigned to work at their “sister school,” which luckily is not too far from where I grew up.There, I will be teaching Spanish to high school students, something I have always wanted to do. I will also be in charge of the Spanish Club there.Aside from reinforcing the language the students hear every day in class and teaching the students about Spanish-speaking countries, one of my main tasks will be leading a school sponsored trip back to Madrid every spring break. The students in the two programs meet for a week of sightseeing and social activities, which are designed to provide them with various opportunities to communicate in both languages.

It is a really incredible concept.An incredible concept that I get paid to be part of.

I think we need more language exchanges like this. The more language barriers we can take down, the better I think the world can be. We need more immersion experiences, too. Imagine us all being able to understand each other in more ways than one.Not just linguistically but also culturally. What do you think we could accomplish if we were able to understand not just the words people used but the cultural and social context?

I am not saying that we would be living in a world of peace, I am not that naïve, but I think global conflicts would decrease. When you understand someone else, they cease to be so alien to you. I think misunderstandings and ignorant fears are a large part of the problem. But with regular exposure to the languages and lives of people unlike your own, things will change. You will still see the differences but you will start to see similarities, too. Suddenly there is a common ground that provides you with something to work from.

I may sound like an idealist here, and very “peace, love, and understanding.”I have to say, I didn’t really feel this way before getting this particular job. But now that I see the way it works, I think programs like it—any language exchange where people are meeting to practice speaking a language that is not their own and coming together with people of different backgrounds to do it—are a positive first step to making the world a more understanding and compassionate place. In this day and age where we are moving toward a more global society, it is more important than ever to learn other languages and experience other cultures. At the very least, I figure it won’t hurt anybody to learn a second language or travel abroad. I can’t wait to go back home and bring a class here. It is going to be amazing to show the kids around and experience Madrid again each year.