In the movie “We Bought a Zoo,” Benjamin Mee says, “Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you something great will come of it.” This quote is extremely applicable to my time in San José.
Before coming to Costa Rica, I was pretty confident in my Spanish skills, thinking I was almost fluent. Then, when I actually got to Costa Rica, natives would say things to me and I would just freeze either because I did not catch exactly what they said or I just had no idea what to say in response and whether whatever I responded would make sense. You know the saying, “a cat got your tongue?” Well, this is just how I felt. It has been extremely frustrating because I have been studying Spanish for so long yet at times like these, I come across as a foreigner who barely has any grasp of the language.
To try to combat this frustrating situation, I have been trying to reinforce the idea that confidence is key. I know that I have a solid base of Spanish and that I can use it. I speak all the time in my Spanish classes at home and therefore I know that I can carry out conversations in Spanish. So if I get thrown off by a question, I just ask the person with whom I am speaking to repeat what they said or explain something in a different way and then confidently respond, trying not to get caught up in the fact that I may be making a mistake. I have done grammar exercise after vocabulary quiz after grammar exercise, etc. in school, so I know that so much Spanish has been engrained in me. When I keep my confidence high and just speak from my heart, I am often very impressed by how my ideas flow into Spanish with little effort.
There have been many instances when I could have simply walked away from a situation or not made conversation but I try my best to find the courage within myself and confidently march forward. For example, my Mama Tica offered to come with me to help me buy a cell phone, but one day I was at the mall and there were kiosks where I could buy cell phones. I walked by the kiosk several times debating if I could accomplish the task of buying the phone myself. I knew I could take the easy way out and wait for my Mama Tica to come with me to help. I finally decided to just walk right up to the salesperson and then I carried out the whole transaction in Spanish. The salesperson was very kind and understood that I was learning Spanish and he seemed to appreciate the fact that I was making the effort to communicate in the native language. After I successfully purchased my phone, I walked away so proud of myself and feeling so accomplished. Each day I try to do something like this and it is incredibly rewarding. I just need to remind myself to be confident in myself and it works like a charm.