I started learning Spanish in seventh grade when I was still studying English grammar and my brain was shifting from juvenile learning sponge to high-speed operating adult brain. Over the years, the power of knowing Spanish has opened doors to new opportunities and I use it in my travels and work in mental health. This blog is about something more than that type of power associated with bilingual skills and has more to do with the Spanish language.
Spanish as a Language
Now that I’m fluent in Spanish, I don’t often reflect on the language. Since I am not a born Spanish speaker, my language-acquisition started mechanically. As I recall, it seemed difficult. As a learning tool, my first Spanish teachers would compare English to Spanish. Now twenty-five years later and I experience the two languages as united. Instead of those lessons of English is this way over here and Spanish is this way over there, they now both cordially reside together and I can access them with ease.
This morning as I was talking to myself, in Spanish, it dawned on me how I used to find it odd the use of reflexive pronouns in Spanish. In school, English grammar teaches that a reflexive pronoun is when the noun and verb are related to the same object. An example is “She put herself to bed.” “Herself” is the reflexive pronoun. Ok, done with mini-English review and on to Spanish.
In Spanish class, My teacher taught me that the word “me (pronounced May)” is the reflexive pronoun for myself in Spanish. In Spanish, reflexive pronouns are placed in front of feeling words. So, as I said, “me allegro (happy)” this morning in my morning gratitude, I saw how the Spanish language empowers people to take ownership of their feelings. Even though I can be referring to something in my environment, I am owning my feeling through first person conjugation (I am). I am directing that feeling back to myself. In English, a Spanish translation of “me allegro que lluegamos” is I am making myself happy that we arrived. Can you hear and see the difference in the use of the language to take ownership of feelings? That is some power.
Passing on the Power of Spanish
My 4 year-old daughter has said, “you’re making me sad.”. As a responsible psychotherapist, I direct her back to she is responsible for her feelings and no one can “make” you feel any particular way. She will look at me with confusion that I am somehow taking away from her experience. Someday, she will know that I am empowering her. Like the Spanish language, to not only own but to also take care of her feelings.