Wednesday, March 8, 2017

To all my fellow PC friends

To my fellow Peace Corps friends,

I know you have heard me talking about my experience with AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps a lot but I do it because I know it can help you with the process you are going through. Back in 2014 by this same time, I joined AmeriCorps and I faced something I didn’t expect, language barrier. I went to serve in Sacramento believing that because I understood English I was going to be able to speak it and have a very nice time. A big surprise suddenly become an ugly surprise, I was trying to speak my translation from Spanish to English in my brain and people were barely understanding me and not to mention that my Spanish accent wasn’t helping a lot. I began to feel embarrassed every time I needed to speak, I didn’t participate in activities in the way I wanted, I had high and lows very frequently. I can’t count how many times I felt frustrated, sad and concerned that weeks were passing and I wasn’t seeing/realizing improvements. A couple of times I felt miserable because I couldn’t express my feelings, a lot of mixed feeling during those days but an incredible learning process was beginning without realizing it and I’m very proud every time I remember that process. I’m sure that you will feel the same in the future when you look back to these days.

I remember a couple of things that helped me so much in my process to re-train my brain and think in another language. I will mention other things that I realized after reflecting on my AmeriCorps experience as well. Worth to mention that every person has different ways to learn and some learn faster than others, said this, some things can apply or not to you.
-          First, it is a long process and recognize it. It will help you to have patience with yourself. If you haven’t developed patience let me tell that you will do it here.
-          Second, your brain has been thinking and process everything in English all your life, said that, your first couple of months you will perceive that you are having tiny improvements but believe me, your brain right now is going through a big change and those tiny improvements will become huge by the final of this training.
-          Third, immerse completely in this culture and try to speak Spanish as much as you can, I know you feel embarrassed when you speak but practicing will help the brain to get use to think in Spanish more quickly.

-          Fourth, don’t be shy to tell the people to correct you every time you say something wrong, be humble, try to joke about the situation, feel vulnerable and TRY to explain the process you are going through. Believe me, instead of feel more embarrassed you will feel empower to be yourself and will make a little bit easy this learning process.
-          Fifth, develop a support system. By that time, I was the only having that problem but I had an incredible team of 8 people with lot of patience willing to help me. They gave me the confidence to talk and corrected me every time I was saying something wrong. Here you have around 28 people with the same situation. Please, rely in each other and practice with them. Try to follow step number 3.
-          Sixth, enjoy the process. It is going to be hard but enjoy it. Other people have gone through the same language barrier and have been able to succeed and unless you are a lazy and don’t make the extra effort, you are going to succeed as well, just remember step number 1, Be patience with yourself.
I really hope this can help a little bit in this journey learning a new language. I’m sure that in two years you are going to look back and feel so proud of yourself and I will be so happy to see that moment. Don’t give up my friend because you have a big purpose in this beautiful country. It has been a pleasure to meet each one of you and I will be more than glad to help anyone in this process.

Resultado de imagen para be calm and enjoy the process


Fernando Ortiz

Special thanks to my team and surrogate family in AmeriCorps: Leah Steffens, Erica Beversluis, Hannah Frizzell, Brittney Wright, Austin Lange, Alex Jensen, Lara Marshall, Lauren Babcock, Blair Elaine.

1 comment:

  1. Fernando, Great blog post! Since I met you, I've been thinking that you are a great antidote to stereotypes about people from the US. You are 100% USA, born and raised in the country, but you speak accented English. That really expands perception of who we are as a people and the great that is our greatest strength. Keep those blog posts coming!