Today in language school, I was called on to read some sentences to practice pronunciation. Whenever this happens, I feel hot liquid run through my veins, down past my knees. I took a deep breathe, and with confidence began reading. After I struggled through the last line, “kaffið er kalt og vont” (the coffee is cold and bad), the teacher began to shake his head and commented, “það hljomar ekki vel.”
My heart began to beat fast as I sensed I had not done something well (ekki=not, vel=well). Confirming my suspicion, the teacher repeated the sentence “það hljomar ekki vel” and translated: “This does not sound good.” I began to feel a lump forming in my throat as the discouragement set it. As if it hadn’t been enough already, he proceeded to write the sentence on the board, making a public mockery of my ignorance. “Það….hjomar…ekki…vel” He enunciated each word and reiterated what each one meant: “This….does…not…sound…good.”
I smiled nervously as I tried to take the harsh rebuke and began to feed myself some positive self talk:
“God still loves me……I have unshakable worth in Jesus…My value as a person is not dependent on my performance….Who I am in Christ is more important than what I do….even if I can’t speak this stupid language!!!”
Sensing the difficulty of the moment, Colby put his arm around me and began to rub my back. Being the peace-maker that he is (he is a textbook third-child), he raised his hand and tried to compromise, “Now..was it just the last line that didn’t sound so good?” Blinking back tears, I looked over at Colby, admiring his ability to bring moderation to such a bleak moment. At that moment, the teacher saw my despair and immediately started belly-laughing. “No, no, no….I was saying that cold coffee does not sound good…not you!” He spent the next few minutes making fun of me and even flagged someone over who was not in our class to share the humorous miscommunication. Either way, it’s a good thing that my self-worth is not tied to my ability to speak this language.