“Donde está el baño?”

The man looked at me with confusion and pointed over his shoulder and then got up to let me by.

I hadn’t spoken Spanish to a live person in about a year. I was using a new app on my phone, Duolingo, to refresh my Spanish speaking skills before our trip to South America. But, as I quickly found out, it was no substitute for practice with a real person.

We were on the plane from Miami to Lima, Peru, and instead of telling the gentleman next to me that I needed to use the bathroom, I asked him where it was!

No wonder why he looked at me like, “lady, is this your first time on an airplane? What do you mean where is the bathroom”?!? Whoops.

To be fair, I was a few cocktails deep. Hey, you gotta keep yourself entertained on a long flight somehow! Hangman and shooters all the way.

Pretty hilarious stuff. I still chuckle about it to this day.

I could have done two things from there: been incredibly embarrassed and avoid speaking Spanish like the plague for the rest of the two week trip, or laugh and move on. It was up to me.

While I did feel a slight tinge of embarrassment for a minute, I laughed and moved on. I’m proud to report that I went on to have many more conversations in bad Spanish with taxi drivers, waiters and tour guides for the rest of the trip!

Ah. Memories.

But, what does it all mean? Besides a story of me making an ass of myself?

This experience highlights three intrinsic truths about learning something new:

  1. It requires a willingness to be uncomfortable and vulnerable. You gotta put yourself out there!
  2. It requires that you make mistakes. Expecting perfection when you’re a beginner is unrealistic. So, don’t do it.
  3. It requires resilience and courage. You have to press on after making said mistake(s). This means you have to have courage to start again at #1 after experiencing a setback. Not always easy.

It’s incredibly easy to feel bad about yourself when you make mistakes. It’s easy to feel stupid and embarrassed.

It’s also easy to think that once you’re done with school, you don’t really have to learn anything new.

In reality, though, we will always be put in situations where we either want to learn or we must learn for the entirety of our life:

Learning a new job. Learning how to eat healthy. Learning how to be confident. Learning how to have a healthy mindset. Learning how to parent. And yes, if you want to, learning a new language.

You will not get through life without learning new things, even once school is finished. In fact, it may be fair to say that your potential in life might be capped by your willingness to learn. So it’s important to keep in mind the three truths about learning and know that it’s the same for everyone. And that the only way to truly fail is if you give up altogether!

I guess what I’m trying to say is, when learning Spanish, practice with real people is important. Also, drinking less on a flight might be good too 😉

Don’t let some bad Spanish get you down, friends! Keep on learnin’.

Much love and gratitude,

Em