I’m taking Elementary Spanish I as my linguistic course this semester. The last Spanish course I took was in elementary school. So, it’s as if I’ve never taken it before because I remember nothing. I seek eventual fluency because it’s a practical language. (I live in Texas, y’all.) However, the most significant reason is its connection to my dancing.
I don’t dance socially that often because I’m a busy student trying to get my degree. When I do dance, I go to salsa clubs. All the music is in Spanish, of course. Could you imagine it in any other language? I had at least ten songs on my iPod in Spanish, but I didn’t understand a word. I can safely say that my music has come alive like I’ve never imagined. And to think I’ve only been studying for slightly over a month.
Unfortunately, I feel painfully self-conscious about my accent, especially since there are several native speakers in my class. I pray I’m not butchering their heart language. Still, I practice as much as I can. I even worked up the nerve to introduce myself in Spanish at my university’s Hispanic Student Organization meeting last week. But, I sometimes feel like an awkward stranger loving something that doesn’t belong to me. “Why should you love a culture you have no place in?” a dark voice says to me. While false, it hurts. But after I tell the voice to shut up, I press on.
We all know that putting yourself out there is frightening. It’s new, and you have to steel yourself against any naysayers. The insecure part of me fears those naysayers. I don’t want to hear it. And,it’s hard to admit, but I’ve been a naysayer more often than I’ve wanted to be. It’s just in a different capacity: dancing. Yes, my impatience is a definite flaw. Tommy’s Saturday group classes tend to bring out the worst in me. He teaches a technique class followed by a dance of his choosing. It shames me to say that I tend to have unkind thoughts towards the older, newer, and slower dancers in those classes. I’m so aggressive and driven when it comes to my craft that I descend into arrogance. This won’t do at all.
Then I think of how painfully awkward I feel in Spanish class, trying my best to replicate a decent accent. The last thing I want to do is sound like a gringa. It’s hard to trust people to be charitable towards my Spanish. That’s probably exactly how newer dancers feel. How could I be so impatient? That’s certainly not how I want people to treat me as I stumble through Spanish. Most importantly, I want people to appreciate dance, even if they never come to love it as I do. Why would it be any different for native speakers? Genuine appreciation of others’ loves is part of caritas. Ah, caritas! How difficult it can be!