Buenos d�as, y bienvenido a tu primero d�a de aula."1
My first day of school was hard. Not only was I facing the fear of learning, making new friends, and spending the next 12 years in school, I also needed to learn a new language so I could communicate with others. Young and impressionable, I learned Spanish quickly. Within my first few months of school in that Chilean nursery school I became quite chatty and learned to converse easily in Spanish.
"On doit prendre cet �cureuil comme �a pour le nourrir correctement."2
They say your third language is the easiest to learn. This was not true of French. Living in Ottawa, Canada where both English and French are spoken lessened the urgency of learning to communicate in another language. It was still helpful, however, to be able to communicate in French when I met the occasional Quebecois or Francophone Ontarian.
When I volunteered at the Canadian Wilderness Society to hand-raise orphaned red squirrels before their release into the wild, an understanding of French was necessary to learn how to feed and care for the squirrels.
"Jij moet even hier vasthouden toen de jongen is op de rug van de paard".3
Of all the languages I have learned, Dutch came most naturally. When I volunteered at the Riding for the Disabled Association, I communicated in Dutch with the handicapped children with whom I worked.
"Me d� um algod�o para limpar as orelhas deste c�o?"4
When I began volunteering at a veterinary clinic 3 years ago, the first thing the veterinarian said to me was, "You are in Portugal. We will only speak Portuguese." After a confusing first few weeks, I understood the basics of medical lingo. I now assist in veterinary consultations much more readily.
I have learned more than being able to converse in several languages from my international experiences. Living overseas has taught me tolerance of diverse cultures and acceptance of others.
1 "Good morning, and welcome to the first day of class."
2 "One must take the squirrel like this in order to nourish it correctly."
3 "You have to hold here when the boy is on the back of the horse."
4 "Would you give me a cotton ball to clean the dog's ears?"