This week, my friend and I hopped on the metro for a quick ride to see the Parc de Labirint d’Horta. A lush green garden full of sculptures and hidden surprises surrounds the 820-yard maze. You enter the labyrinth on end and try to find the fountain and statues at the center.
Once you solve the puzzle and find your way out the back exit, the rest of the neoclassical garden has a pretty array of fountains, bridges, little ponds and beautiful figurines. Kings and socialites used to hold outdoor parties here during the 1800s and when you visit you can see why.
When I first looked at the photo of the labyrinth on the map, I mistakenly thought it would be easy to work out the correct solution quickly. However, my confidence melted into frustration as I continuously thought I was on the right track getting so close to the center but ran into yet another dead end. Sometimes I could see the statues through the breaks in the branches blocking my way, but in those instances, I was actually farther away.
This experience reminded me of my struggle with learning other languages. My family raised me strictly monolingual. I have been working hard to become fluent in Spanish for the past two years and interning in Spain has by far been the time of my greatest improvement. But a lot of frustration came with it, too. Like running into the hedged in walls in the labyrinth, I sometimes have felt as though I’m making no progress and can’t see any steps forward in my confusing quest for clear communication. Yet, the same principle applies in both scenarios: the best way to learn is to try. You will make mistakes, get the verb conjugation wrong and feel foolish when someone can’t understand you. The desperation of living in a country where your coworkers, host family, neighbors and others you interact with on a daily basis all speak a different language actually presents the best opportunity possible for learning.
And when you finally reach that break through point, coming to the end of the “language labyrinth,” maybe the first time you have a full conversation with a local in their dialect without any trouble— you’ll know that it was all worth the effort.