I do speak Spanish
I’m about to head out on the second leg of my journey through Latin America and I’ve had to do a lot of logistics, planning, and general contemplation about the next 4 months of my life. Some of that has involved looking back objectively to overcome the limiting areas – or areas that were negatively affecting my effectiveness during the last foray into Latin America.
One of the big issues is language. I am Canadian. I’ve spent the majority of my life in English speaking places. My first language is English – my second language is Spanish – my third language is Italian…
As I traveled through Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize my Spanish improved dramatically. However, every time I started to talk about autism or anything related to autism, such as social-behavioral issues, psychology, etc. I’d receive blank stares from the native Spanish speakers. Up until the past few days I thought that I was simply mispronouncing the words or possibly even using non-words.
Perhaps autism wasn’t pronounced “ahhh-tiz-moe”…perhaps.
Now I know that’s not the case. I had a realization – a revelation if you will…the people I was talking to had never even heard the words I was using before. Most of the people I encounter in Latin America are so far removed from any education about autism that they don’t even know the terms associated with autism – even though their countries are almost equally affected by autism as Canada, the USA and the U.K.
I can completely understand why people were unable to understand some of the things I’d say.
Imagine with me that you encounter an adventurer traveling through your home town. His first language is not English and he begins to use words that you do not know – you assume he is using non-words since he hesitates when he speaks.
His English is good, but when he starts talking about one topic, which he brings up often, he uses words you don’t know. You think that maybe he is speaking his native tongue so you try to help him say those foreign words in English. The words are hard to speak and are new to you – as you try to place them in context with what you know. Eventually he continues on his way, and you spend the rest of the day thinking about the words this stranger has said – eventually realizing that his words were, in fact, English, and he was describing a condition that your cousin’s child has. It all makes sense, but you never have the chance to tell him that what he was saying was correct, just foreign to you.
After recent contact with people I’ve connected with early in my journey I realized this is what has happened for me. I talk to people, educate them about autism, and move on – even though I’m unsure if the words I’ve used were correct.
Well, I’ve looked what I say up in the dictionary and spoken with people fluent in Spanish and I was saying things correctly.
I speak Spanish – and some of the things I share with people are so new to them that they don’t even know the words relating to autism – that’s how uneducated a lot of Latin America is on this issue.
In many ways this has given me a revitalized passion for the next few months as I leave Canada and head south again.
I have to meet as many people as I can and educate them on autism so they can recognize it and help those who are dealing with it because, let’s be realistic about this, children with autism in areas that are uneducated on the condition are often beaten!
They need help…and so I will get back on the road.
I don’t know where I will sleep. I don’t know who I will meet. I know where I’ll go, but only vaguely. I have don’t know anyone in any of the countries I’m going to except Ecuador and Argentina -that leaves 7 other countries.
I’m unsure most of the details of the next 4 months. But, everything always works out – and I have this going for me:
I do speak Spanish.