They say that the easiest and most natural way to learn a language is to fall in love. I am inclined to agree; having witnessed this phenomenon personally. My youngest sister married a man from another world and learned his language along the way. She was just a kid when she met him; 19 years old and breathtaking in her youth. He was a few years older and handsome enough to catch her eye.
They met at a wedding; which is quite possibly the best place for two single people to meet. It’s instant ready-made romance, free for the taking. They played the eye contact game from across the room until he got up the nerve to take that very long walk to her table. He held out his hand and pointed at the dance floor. They danced for hours and only stopped when the wedding planner dragged them off to the cake-cutting ceremony.
I watched them covertly from my own table as they fed each other bites of cake. From afar you would have guessed that they were playing charades; their conversation consisted mostly of wild hand gestures and giggling. They came to my table at the end of the event. They needed a translator and I was handy. My sister spoke no Spanish, and her prince? Not a lick of English.
In the following weeks I was on call at all hours of the day and night for the lovebirds. After receiving one too many calls with requests like: “Please tell him he has beautiful eyes!” and “How do you say: you complete me?” I reached my breaking point and put my foot down. I gift wrapped two Spanish-English dictionaries and told the pair that they were going to have to make do without me. And so they did.
My sister devoured any Spanish language book she could get her hands on; her Spanish was coming fast and easy because she had the best reason to learn: love. My brother-in-law-to-be was making a valiant effort of his own; he enrolled in an intensive English program. My sister’s notebooks were full of verb conjugations and drawings of hearts with their initials. Theirs was a labor of love.
They married a year and a half after they met; the ceremony was bilingual and so were they (well, mostly). They have three beautiful bilingual children who alternately call me “auntie” and “tia”.
Love is truly the international language and the highest motivator of them all.