Huatulco Life was inspired by people with a passion for Huatulco and the Mexican lifestyle. It is a place to find out more information about the region and enjoy the beauty of the Oaxacan coastline through the photo gallery. From time to time, other interesting tidbits about Mexico make their way into the pages of this blog. Enjoy!

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Monday, May 16, 2011


Today's guest post is by Sue McClam

Connections are one of the most important things in my life.  I value the big connections that include my family and friends but I savor the unexpected connections I make each day.  For me, knowing how to speak Spanish increases opportunities for connections and makes my life in Huatulco all the more rich.

Communicating in another language is a complex task.  When we interact with others, we take into consideration so many things without being conscious of them.  I am a language teacher so I am intrigued by words, how they go together and why.  Several years ago the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages published the Standards for Foreign Language Learning, Preparing for the 21st Century, which serves as a guide to teaching languages.  In it they explain this complex task of communication in simple terms:  "Knowing how, when, and why to say what to whom."

There is an important distinction between learning exclusively grammar and vocabulary and really learning how to communicate.  How many of you who have learned the basics of the Spanish language (often long ago in high school) and have been puzzled at the reactions you have gotten to what you thought was a very clear and well intended statement on your part?

In our own language we have learned, often without thought, what is culturally appropriate in a given context.  We know what is inappropriate and what is considered good manners.  The guide mentioned above lists five areas that should be taken into consideraton when learning a language:  Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons and Communities, thus insuring that we know not just how to get our basic message across but to do so in a way that builds the connections we may come to value.

Those of you who live, work, visit or volunteer in Huatulco have chosen to do so because you are drawn to its beauty and its lifestyle.  You become part of the community when you arrive.  You enhance that experience when you connect to the greater community.  You make your comparisons; try on new customs, new ways of thinking and new ways of organizing your day.   You share your own ways as well while you observe and study both the local and national cultures.  And when you are ready you attempt to communicate.

The first time you successfully understand and make yourself understood you feel like all the struggle to learn is worth it.  Communicating in another language is complicated and it doesn't happen unless you take the first step and try.  You have to park your pride for a little while and not be afraid to sound a little silly, but the rewards via new connections are great and can be oh so intriguing. 

When we reach out through language and connect with the people who share the same community we make both parties richer and create something new where ideas, customs, cultures, and creative works are shared and become something blended and unique.  In my work teaching I have had the opportunity to bring unlike groups together and what I have found is that the best of each equals something much greater than one plus one.  This sharing that creates new community is a beautiful thing.  Be conscious of and enjoy your role in making connections.  They are essential to the creation of our shared community.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Sue. How about a regular column about "Knowing how, when, and why to say what to whom" in Mexico? It would be valuable to almost all of us. Mike