While we were living outside of Monterrey, Nuevo León, I gave EFL lessons to a handful of neighbors and friends who wanted to learn English. I charged each student the equivalent of around $3 USD, or less, per hour. While there was much continuing interest from residents in the community, there weren’t very many Mexicans who were actually willing to sacrifice a few dollars a week for education, though learning the English language is the type of thing that — as opposed to parties, glitzy clothing, toys, phones, and alcohol — would give them the chance at a better future.
As with coaching youth soccer, teaching EFL was something I thoroughly enjoyed doing. I love being able to witness and contribute to others’ growth. So I will probably end up doing it again in some environment.
That said, it’s noteworthy that my own husband — with whom I’ve maintained a steady relationship for more than five years — cannot understand enough of my language to carry on a complete conversation in English. Pressure comes at me from all directions: “He needs to learn English,” “You should speak to him only in English,” or “Why don’t you just teach him English?”
Sigh. Things people say. A good part of me agrees, but it’s easier said than done.
We have been in the U.S. for nearly a year now. Before then, all conversation between Aron and me, and among Aron’s family in Mexico, was in Spanish. Every joke, story, cultural reference, and intimate word between Aron and me has been in Spanish. So essentially, you could say our relationship was founded in a language that I have come to enjoy, love, and learn fluently — but this language is not the one I learned from my parents. And going back and trying to translate those memories among us just doesn’t work, because the transition from Spanish to English, and vice versa, is generally not word-for-word. That’s what makes it tough to learn new languages.
And since I don’t want any of us to lose our knack for Spanish while we are in the U.S. (and since, as a customer service rep, I get paid more due to my capacity to speak Spanish with ease on a daily basis), I’ve not been to eager to phase myself into speaking to Aron in English. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t learned at all; it just means it hasn’t been as much of a priority as maybe it should be, particularly in onlookers’ eyes.
So as much as I appreciate the encouragement of strangers and loved ones to get Aron to drop his own language and replace it with that of the gringos, the situation is not as simple as what it appears to be. Either way, bit by bit we are each becoming well rounded individuals. I am confident we will “get there” someday.