One thing we’re going to have to get used to in the months ahead is humility. No matter how proficient I will want to look in a new culture with a different language, it will be obvious (sometimes painfully so) to others around me that I am not proficient at all. I may think I sound like a native, while they’re giggling under their breath because I’m speaking like a three year old with marbles in my mouth.
This is just a feeling we will have to get used to – and in fact, we’ll embrace it. I think we’ll learn better, make deeper friendships, if we come as a learner who’s not afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Think of your encounters with people who are not native to our country. You’ll end up spending more time correcting someone who thinks they already know it all, than you will with someone who simply says, “Tell me. I need to learn.” Not only will you spend less time, you’re also more likely to enjoy that person’s company!
A few weeks ago a local friend sat in her car and gave me a basic lesson. I got the general ideas, but haven’t practiced since then. I put word out on Facebook that I was looking for more practice, and last night another friend loaned me his pickup truck for a while. I’ve learned some important lessons from these two experiences:
- Every manual transmission car is different, has a different feel. The first one I tried is a brand-new, shiny SUV with smooth shifting action. The truck I’m driving today is a few years old, and the shifting is much harder.
- Driving a stick shift on country roads and parking lots, is very different from driving in town. Can’t imagine what it will be like driving in a city!
I decided to take the truck into town for running errands this morning. Here’s the rundown:
Getting out of the driveway – no problem! Smooth reverse, but stalled going into first.
First stoplight – Had to sit through one cycle because I kept stalling out. Fortunately there was no one behind me, but the people waiting the other direction gave me some strange looks. Smiled and waved.
At the bank – Successfully came to a stop at the drive-up window, in the right place, without stalling. Then nearly gave the tellers a heart attack when I stalled loudly while pulling away from the window. I calmed them with a smile and rolled eyes, saying, “I’m learning a stick shift.” They giggled and shook their heads.
Next stoplight – A hill. I started groaning with dread 30 seconds before I got there. It took two light cycles this time, but I finally made it across – though when I crossed (very slowly) the person going the other way got caught in the middle of the intersection trying to turn left, because she was waiting on me to get through the intersection. Smiled and waved.
Post office – Starting in reverse was not so easy this time. Stalled twice, drawing looks from other post office customers. Smiled and waved.
Church – Finally, I pulled up to the church and stopped the thing. Deep breathing for a couple of minutes. Decided I need more caffeine.
So there are all kinds of lessons learned about humility today. And it’s only 11 in the morning.
While we’re committed to learning the Slovak language the humble way, I have discovered a couple of phrases I’ll need to learn quickly:
- “I’m still learning to drive a car.” (I don’t need to add the part about the “stick shift,” because to them that’s the only kind of car)
- “I’m sorry – I can pay for your bumper.”