Why You Should Learn Spanish

I have really been enjoying my time in Ecuador. I mean, it’s hard not to be really happy and having fun when you are surrounded both by wonderful people and an incredible landscape. Most of my blog posts talk about how amazing the Intag Valley is because it is hard to ignore and not appreciate the natural beauty of the area. I have always been deeply connected to nature, preferring to spend most of my time wandering aimlessly in the woods or trudging up mountains, and the cloud forest covering the slopes of Intag was exactly what my soul was craves. This love for the landscape was not unique to me or my classmates but shared by most people graced to be in the valley and is apparent through interactions with community members the past few weeks.

Although the majority of the people living in the area are “poor” (monetarily, by the western sense) and work as sustenance farmers, there are many people that we were fortunate enough to meet through mingas and farm tours who were very invested in protecting the environment and fostering practices that allowed them to be less harsh on the land that they were farming. Not only were a lot of people investing their time and energy to build more sustainable livelihoods but quite of few also spent a lot of time introducing and implementing their techniques in the community. One notable farmer who was very invested in building a more sustainable farm gave us a tour of his biodigester which was so neat. He has several pigs that he collects the manure from and is able to turn that and other waste into biofuel which he burns as a gas stove in his kitchen and fertilizer which fulfills all his farm’s needs. It seemed to be super cool and I am really excited by the idea but unfortunately I feel that a lot was lost on me due to the language barrier.

Not knowing Spanish has been the greatest obstacle for me on this trip and has really influenced my experience and my general reflections on the work that we have been doing the past few weeks. This class is called “community-partnerships in Ecuador” and thus is based off of working directly with community members on projects. But there is no language requirement, only that knowledge of Spanish is preferred. As I have discovered, international work should never be considered unless you have a fluency in the language of the area. Yes, I was able to rely on my classmates to translate and help me along (which they were great at doing) but why is it their responsibility to have to do such a thing? Also hearing a community partner tell long stories in Spanish and then having the English translation be, “well basically he is saying this”, made me feel that a lot of the subtle inflections and personal soul of the story was lost in a simple explanation. I felt that I was not able to participate in a lot of the work that we did such as teaching the water cycle at schools or talking with our great in-country partner, Don Julio, since I lacked Spanish. Honestly, I would not recommend taking this class unless you have enough of an understanding of Spanish that you are confident at solo interactions.

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