Learning a new language to open oneself to the world—a witness from Denver.

When I was in elementary school, I detested studying English. It seemed so harsh and complicated. Therefore, as a young girl, I decided that it would be better to stay in my country, so I could avoid having to learn other languages that weren’t Spanish. My encounter with the Movement and then with the Missionaries of St. Charles totally changed my way of looking at the world. The possibility of sharing  the beauty of life with others made me learn not only English, but also Italian! When I was asked to teach Spanish in the elementary school of our parish, here in Broomfield, I immediately recognized a repugnance towards learning Spanish in the children, very similar to what I had experienced when I was their age towards English. It made me wonder: “How is it possible to show them that learning a new language can be a point of encounter with something or someone that makes life more rich?” I felt the need to take them outside the walls of the school, and so I created an imaginary expedition: we made our own passports, covered them with school logos, and watched a video in Spanish of a flight attendant explaining the security precautions and preparation for take-off.

During the first two months of class, we spoke about Spain—following the Cammino of Santiago, we learned how to count in Spanish; during our visit to the Sagrada Familia, we used many qualifying adjectives; in the restaurants of Madrid, we expanded our vocabulary with exquisite culinary dishes; we reviewed verbs and conjugations though Spanish music and dances. To learn how to use the third person formal, we invited the King of Spain into our classroom: Fr. Michael Carvill willingly accepted the invitation and, dressed up as a king, spoke with the children in Spanish! Then, from Spain, we set off again as missionaries going to the New World. One of the most beautiful moments for me was the decade of the Rosary we prayed in Spanish in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the church before our departure. Currently, we are studying Latin America. We celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe, el Dìa de los Muertos and las Posadas. Now, when I enter class, I am greeted by big smiles, a testament to the children’s newfound enthusiasm for Spanish. It is beautiful to see them learning a new language, as well as a position of openness towards the world.

 

(in the image, Sister Marilù and Fr. Michael Carvill during a Spanish lesson, Denver, USA).

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