Language School

Today we begin an intensive 5 days a week, 3 1/2 hours a day language class. This will continue for 4 weeks. Four long, headache causing weeks. Fear and trembling have set in. And also the feeling that I am going to throw up.

It is the same feeling I had when I walked into Advanced or AP Biology in high school. Sylvia Blaylock while one of my favorite teachers had a dark side called “crazy matching test”. I do not have the time this morning to describe the test to you, but suffice it to say that 95% of the class sat at their desk trembling while they broke out in cold sweats trying to keep a grip on their pencils. If you were ever going to cheat off the smart kid’s paper, it would be during one of these tests. Goodness, just thinking about it is making me nervous.

I got the same feeling when as I approached the office my oral comprehensive exams were being held in for my Master’s degree. I’m pretty sure I was tearing up and pushing the throw up back down as I walked in that door and saw the four professors who would drill me on everything I had learned in three years and then decide my fate. I could hardly breathe as the drilling began and then every answer just left my head. It was like I had not studied at all every single day for the previous six months. I walked out of that room, saw my friend Charles who had come for emotional support and started bawling. And I mean ugly bawling. This one day keeps me from pursuing another Master’s degree. Doctorate….forget about it.

So this is how I feel when I think about language school. The first day we started language school in Naples we went into a little room to take a written test determine our language level. That was easy for me…level zero. I knew this because I had trouble figuring out which blank at the top of the page was for first name and last name. I’m pretty sure I had to ask Paul or at least look on his paper. Yes, I probably cheated, but who can’t figure out which blank their first and last names go in?? That is all that was filled out on my test. I mean, they could have just saved that paper. Then, Paul and I were taken to a little room with the ever kind Daniela, who proceeded to speak to me in Italian like I knew what she was saying. I’m pretty sure I started tearing up in this situation as well. I left feeling utterly defeated with a huge pit in my stomach.

I left class probably 90% of the time feeling like I would never get it and on the verge of tears, which sometimes waited until I got home to spill out and sometimes just barely made it to the school door. It was just so hard for me. I felt like I was failing because EVERYONE told me because I was musical I would pick up the language easily. LIE. Big ole fat LIE. But because I thought I should be learning it easily when I didn’t it created a sense of failing.

Are you beginning to get a sense of why I am dreading this just a touch? I mean, I’m writing this at 6:00am and I already have nervous knots building…class starts at 9:00.

“Do I have to go to school?” No. “Then why put yourself through this, MacKenzie?” Good question. It’s a multi-response answer.

  1. One of my three goals for the year is to improve my language skills. At some point I’ll write down measurable and attainable goals. One way I can do this is to go back to school for a bit. Afterall, it’s the environment I learn best in after all. I really did like school, honest.
  2. If I am ever going to somewhat “fit in”, be able to communicate effectively to every.single.person.I.meet then I have to improve in language. I can never build sincere and honest friendship, teach, or speak into any situation without improved language.
  3. I truly believe that it’s a good thing for my kids to see me struggle with language, tackle it, go to school, improve and at some point conquer language as they do the same thing.
  4. It will remind me of what my kids are in five days a week, helping me be more gracious and understanding towards them.

I think those a good enough reasons to suck it up and go to school. To put myself through the headaches and all the feelings that come with this part because I know on the flip side of it, although I will have consumed too many tylenols to count, drank many soothing cups of hot tea, and had lots of “American” days (those living in countries not their own might be the only ones who get this) my language will be better. I will be able to better talk to teachers, other moms, and my church family. I will feel more at home in a city that I am a stranger in because I will fit in more. This makes the nervous knots loosen up. It makes me excited, happy and ready to start.

So I’m going to read my Bible for the few minutes I have this morning before I have to start rushing around to get the kids and myself and Paul out the door. Then, I am going to bust my way up into that school and face it head on, pushing down the throw up all the way.

Oh, and one last thing…I also have to take a placement test today. If nothing else, at least I will be able to write my first and last names in the correct blanks this time.

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