Empathy and Language Learning




I already mentioned before in a previous blog about my struggles in my Intro to Czech class. Normally I just push through it but this particular week has been really hard for some reason. I’ve actually been dreading coming to class and getting anxiety over it. I feel that I have to work twice as hard than the other students do. What’s unique about my program is that I take classes with not only Americans but students from all over the world. In my class, we mostly have students who are already fluent in another Slavic language, so the language comes easier to them. I am one of three Americans in my class.

I met up with a friend of mine this weekend who is studying in Italy. And she told me she was really struggling with Italian and that she had to study harder than anyone else. Now, Italian to me isn’t so difficult. I’m fluent in Spanish so the Romance languages are easier for me to learn. But I could empathize with her. I told her that I definitely can relate what she was going through.

I told her how I felt. That somedays, I really don’t want to go to class because I don’t feel like embarrassing myself; Especially because my professor has us all take turns speaking, she’s very supportive but it is not easy to put yourself out there and struggle with pronunciation and to try to figure out the grammar; even if everyone in my class is really nice and patient with me. I feel like I’m limited whenever I try to communicate, almost like a child.

But as I was saying this, I started to think about those who weren’t native English speakers and how they must struggle back in the States. Now, I struggle with Czech in class, but if I really need to make myself understood, I can easily switch to English because everyone at my school has that language in common. Those who are learning English don’t really have that option in America.

Also, while most of the native Czech speakers are patient with me when I try to speak their language, I noticed that not all native English speakers are patient with those who don’t speak the English language fluently.

After I thought about it, I realized that I had to stop feeling sorry for myself. My struggles seemed pretty minuscule in comparison to what non-native English speakers go through every day. Being in a language class definitely made me feel more understanding towards them. It allowed me to experience what they go through every day.

I feel like everyone should take a foreign course, and in a language that is not in any way similar to their native one. And I feel that everyone should try to communicate in that language without falling back on their native language. It may be difficult but maybe that way we can all become a lot more humble, patient, and understanding towards others.