Today, as part of my current Church assignment, I attended two Ward conferences of two of the other wards in our Stake. One of these Wards has a group of spanish speaking members who meet with them. One of the challenges of this Ward has been to integrate the two groups, despite their language barriers. The women in the spanish speaking group have their own classes in Spanish, while the english speaking women meet separately. Because of the language barrier, it has been difficult to be unified as a Ward.
When I attend Ward conferences, I only attend the Relief Society meeting. But because I was missing my own church meetings in order to attend, I decided to attend all of the meetings of the second Ward I visited. One of the women I work with also attended the meetings with me. She is Latino, and has been invaluable in helping to communicate with the spanish speaking sisters in our Stake. When it came time to go to Sunday School class, she encouraged me to go with her to the Spanish speaking class.
I took four years of spanish in High school, but am by no means fluent. But I can understand some, atleast the general topic. I wanted these members to feel that even though there was a language barrier, I wanted to meet together with them, so I attended their class. I have to admit that I didn't understand as much this time as I normally do. Sometimes people speak with such a thick accent, or too quickly, or not clearly enough so that I just can't understand. My friend interpreted alot for me.
It is very interesting to spend an hour in their shoes and see what it is like to be the one who doesn't understand. The one thing that I was totally unprepared for was the frustration at not being able to offer my comments in the class. I just didnt' have the language abilities, and also, when I even thought about trying to speak in Spanish, Chinese came whirling in to my head.
I hope that even though I never made a comment, that those women felt that I still care and am trying to unite with them. I hope they will have patience with those of us who are native speakers, and push past the language barrier so that we can get to know them.