Eliana’s View: Learning Love Through Spanish Slip-Ups

Spanish–one of the heartbeats of Costa Rica. I joke with kids, give instructions, and connect with people, all in a second language. A knack for accents gives me some native flair, but I know grammar goofs aren’t hidden by trilling my r’s. Teams marvel at my conversations with the staff, but they don’t notice my mis-conjugated verbs and mixed up pronouns. Like when I gave the time as 10 o’clock and it was 2, or my tongue twist flubs in front of large groups, mistakes are just part of the landscape when I speak.

The other day a little sweetheart ran to me and asked for “ostillas.” You want tortillas? No, ostillas! Puzzled, I found a tía and asked what was up.

The wise women spoke Spanish in both grown up and toddler dialects. She burst into laughter, then explained the request was for costillas*. It translates on any menu as ribs, but in kid-lingo means tickles.

Tickles, not tortillas. I laughed, too, but was still discouraged. I’ve been practicing for 5 years. Why aren’t I perfect by now?

img_8340Then I thought about my Spanish when I first arrived. My vocabulary was slim, and my grammar worse. I threw nouns and verbs together and got mishmashed results. It was a miracle that I could communicate anything back then, but I did.

People were kind; they were glad I was trying.

As time went by, I improved. My sentences started coming together, components working in the right order. I learned how I do, she does, they did, and we didn’t. I practiced that everything has a gender and where it goes in the action of my phrases. Little words make big differences. They are easy to forget, too. I get better, day by day.

But still not perfect.

And that’s the way I am without God. Imperfect. Incomplete. But with him, I am made new. His love offsets my flaws, physical, grammatical, and spiritual.

Even my Spanish ones.

The kids don’t see me for my errors. The tías don’t judge me for all my mess ups. So why should I?

God’s love fills in the gaps of my mistakes. His grace covers my subjects, verbs, and pronouns. His joy laughs with me over my blunders. His peace soothes my heart when discouragement comes knocking. He is working in everything, even my Spanish slip-ups.

Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18 ESV


Kris’s note: It’s always fun to write with my girl. She brings the diamond and together we polish it. I am proud of her for pressing into a skill that doesn’t come easy and learning about love in the mishaps.

*Case in point: a beautiful Tica just explained to me after reading this, the real word is “cosquillas.” So even now we’ve slipped up, writing about slip-ups. And even grown up Spanish can be misunderstood. Thanks for laughing along with us.

How difficult is it to do things you aren’t great at? Have you ever found yourself growing in unexpected ways as you make mistakes? Leave a comment below and share your story with us.


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