Thursday, July 29, 2004

Never underestimate trust, praise and confidence as motivators

My internship supervisor at the agency is very trusting of my abilities in my newly chosen field. He has solicited my input on some client issues, acknowledged my presence to the clients as associate, not intern, sent me on a few client meetings by myself and today sent me to the home of a client family who only speak Spanish- knowing full well that I can't, but also confident that I would find a way to communicate. I am confident in my own abilities with clients up to a point, but a lot of the specifics are very new to me. In the final analysis, working with clients and families is something that one only learns by doing and no two situations are ever exactly the same. Speaking Spanish is something else entirely. Living in Southern California, I know I should have been trying much harder to learn more all these years.

I speak a very halting form of pidgin Spanish. When I am not too self-conscious, the accent is Angeleno-Mexican-American. If I were to classify my speaking ability, I would say that I am about as proficient as a confused two year old, and really even that might be a stretch. I do understand much more than I speak, but there are huge gaps, and a lot of intuitive guessing. This ability to intuit what I am hearing is not only from the little Spanish I know and remember (I did take a class about twenty plus years ago), but also a lifelong ability to 'hear' real meaning by the 93% that isn't in words. But I really do need to learn more Spanish. It might be difficult to accomplish right now, as I am also trying to learn ASL, but both of these would/will be very valuable in my current/future line of work.

The solo visit to the client's home today was only a brief check of status- and an unusual situation, for which I mostly needed my eyes and intuition to be able to report my impressions. I also dropped off some supplies to create a picture communication system that will hopefully, slowly begin to help improve the client's quality of life. I managed the Spanish enough to introduce myself, apologize, explaining that I understood a little bit, but didn't really speak Spanish. When I reached the part where I asked if the person spoke English, the conversation went much smoother- in English. However, I am quite in awe (and very grateful- it is a huge boost to self-esteem) of my boss's trust. His trust, confidence in me and praise are powerful motivators and keep me focused on my reasons for doing this- helping the clients, in whatever way I can.

But I would like to be able to speak Spanish at least as well as a four or five year old. ;-)
Does anyone have a recommendation for a computer program/tapes/book- a company- anything- that you may have used to learn a different language- something not too horribly expensive?

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