The Cringiness of Learning a New Language

Sam
4 min readJun 16, 2023

--

I have always felt inspired to learn a new language, and I’ve always admired people who were bilingual. To me, when I meet someone who speaks more than one language fluently, that is like an automatic respect level I have for that person because I understand just how much confidence and courage it took for them to put themselves out there enough times to become fluent in a foreign language.

Since the moment I backpacked across Costa Rica when I was just 22, I knew that I was was drawn to learn more about the Spanish language. It was so much sexier and mysterious to me than the typical English jargon that I had become so accustomed to hearing growing up in Western Canada, never really having traveled much prior to that. I fell in love with it immediately. I taught myself a few key words and phrases, you know, the classics like, how to ask for an ashtray in a bar, or where to find a bathroom, or how to order another drink. Spanish: 101, for 22 year old backpackers stumbling their way across Central America. After returning home I dove a little deeper and taught myself a bit more, learning the days of the week, a few colors, and so on. But I never really took it too seriously. Fast forward about 10 years, mas o menos, and I found myself living in Mexico, no further educated on the language, but fully emersed in it, and thats where the cringiness truly began.

Now I am not so high on my own ego that I am not willing to put myself out there and test out a few new phrases every once in a while, especially around my husbands side of the family or while I am out and about. The Spanish language is sacred here in Mexico, especially the area that I live in where it is far less touristy than many of the gringo spots where English is more acceptable. But as much as I practice (usually in my own head albeit) and as much as I think I know, there is always this little cringy voice in the back of my mind taunting me, and I begin to feel so un-authentically me that when I do try to speak Spanish, I know that voice holds me back, a lot. You can practice and study as much as you like but the only real way to be able to speak a new language, is to speak a new language, and thats usually the only thing standing between you and that goal.

Personally, my biggest problem is getting out of my own way and getting over that insecurity which tells me that I am not being my authentic self because I am trying to relate to people in a different way, and thats really all that learning a new language is about, isn’t it? Being able to communicate and relate to a wider range of people. But its the learning process of it all that gets to me. The constant feeling of being misunderstood. Luckily, the people here in Mexico are usually very kind and open to letting you practice on them, regardless of how foolish you may look and feel, and in fact, many of them that I have met here strongly encourage it. Afterall this is their country, and their first language.

But we can’t let our inner cringes sabotage us and prevent us from growing for forever, can we? This is the whole concept of combatting your inner saboteur. Acknowledging the god awful voice that tells you that you aren’t good enough, brave enough, or strong enough to do something, and instead choosing to ignore it and doing it anyway. So that is where I find myself nowadays, but its not so easy.

Just today for example, I took a field trip to the hair salon with my MIL where it was no holds barred Spanish all the way. Yes it was intimidating af, but did I let that stop me? Hell no I didn’t. I studied up a bit beforehand with my husband, making him drill Sargent me with all the likely key words one would find themselves needing in a hair salon, and I went in there with my best foot forward and came out with a bit more confidence and a bomb-ass new haircut. WHY? Because I tried. I ignored the shitty little voice in the back of my head telling me I couldn’t do it, and I did it.

The moral of the story is yes, learning a new language is way too cringy, but what is the alternative, not learning? No thank you. We all have to learn to put ourselves out there once in a while, especially when we really don’t want to, because that is where the real growth truly happens in life. Some might call me crazy for living in a country like Mexico, being afraid to speak Spanish, but you know what I say to those people? Why yes, you are probably correct, I am a bit crazy. But you need a little bit of crazy to do great things in life!

--

--

Sam

34 year old Canadian, living abroad in Mexico. These are my stories before, during, and after becoming a mom.