Daily Archives: April 28, 2008

Threading a needle wearing boxing gloves…

… is what it feels like at the moment to be conducting delicate discussions with my team and with external contacts in Spanish.

These discussions would be difficult enough anyway, but they are made so much harder by having to struggle for the correct vocabulary, not to mention constantly being unsure of the nuances of what I’m saying. My Spanish is pretty good, but I’ve not used it for a while so it’s rather rusty. And sitting through two hour meetings about complicated issues in Spanish is really draining my mental energy – not to mention giving introductory speeches to workshops! There are times, like now, when I just feel mentally exhausted and unable to think or speak any more, even in English.

It’s inevitable to feel under pressure during the first weeks of a new job, particularly one as challenging as this. I have been expecting that pressure, and I have been dealing with it pretty well. But when, as occasionally happens, I have the opportunity to speak to someone in English, I realise just how much of the pressure and tension comes simply from the difficulties of operating in another language.

Still, it’s a question of the base of comparison. If I could use Spanish as precisely as I can use English, clearly I would be a bit more effective at my job. But a more useful (and encouraging!) comparison is with how much worse things would be if I didn’t speak Spanish at all! It makes a lot of important things possible – without being able to speak Spanish there are people I would only be able to speak to through an interpreter. And it’s a true cliche that people do really appreciate my efforts. It will also get easier as I get more used to using Spanish and specifically using the common terms in my professional field.

So perhaps threading a needle wearing ski gloves would be a more accurate simile. Not easy, but so much better than trying to thread a needle without hands!

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