Final part, thank God, of my old abandoned book project on language learning. Other parts + context here.
What else will I dredge up from my archives? Can't wait to see!
Passing the Threshold
By now I've shared with you the bulk of what I've learned about the Natural Method, all things I've done myself on my own language learning adventures, all principles I continue to use on a regular if not daily basis. They are not inclusive of all possible learning strategies, and in describing them I've undoubtedly left out many interesting nuances and useful tactical considerations. But they have served me well, and if you accept and apply the basic principles I believe they can work for anyone. Language learning isn't hard, and it's not rocket science. It does, however, require lots of sustained input (so why not make it fun input), healthy motivations (like an interest or passion for some part of the culture), a trust in one's self, one's experience, and one's capacity to learn, and a bit of courage in its application. I trust that these ideas have mapped out a path, albeit a rough one, through the craggy mountains to the sunlit uplands of multi-lingualism. Each day is an opportunity to answer the siren call of your language anew, even if you ignored it the day or week or month before. That's part of the journey. There's a whole stage of the archetypical Hero's Journey called, you guessed it, Denying the Call. Frodo wants Gandalf to take the ring. Harry doesn't believe he's a wizard. Luke doesn't want to go with Ben Kenobi and would rather stay on Tatooine with his Aunt and Uncle. Take heart that each day you're bit by bit loading up your new operating system, building the bricks of your other language identity. All that remains is passing the threshold past the point of no return, where your self and your life in your adopted language takes on such a vitality and force of its own, there'd be no possible way to imagine yourself without it or stopping it. How do you kill what's part of you?
How do you know when you've reached your goal? How do you know when to stop learning and challenging yourself to improve your adopted language? These are fair, reasonable questions.
But a better question to ask is: if you're having fun, doing things that are personally meaningful and important, and connecting with amazing people, and that happens to be in your adopted language... why would you ever stop?
Learning a language well means inventing, creating, or redefining yourself in some way. The language becomes a part of your identity, and a cherished part of it at that, filling your life with fun, adventure, and meaning. Learning a new language and putting it in practice is the ultimate opportunity to write your own narrative and reinvent yourself accordingly. The bigger question to me is, how to get to and past this point?
This is the question I want to answer here: how to make sure we cross that point of no return. I mentioned at the end of Chapter Six that I noted a big difference between my first two years actively learning Spanish and my two years actively learning French. With Spanish, I’d reached a high level of fluency and was well on my way to native level fluency. In French, I reached a level of comprehension and conversational ability that, while satisfying, is nowhere near where I was at with Spanish in roughly the same amount of time. I said it came down to a difference of motivation and discipline in habit forming, and this difference also explains the variability in progress between Spanish and the other two languages I've learned, Italian and Portuguese. I want to explain the difference, because it's key to accelerating your language learning and to propelling yourself across the point of no return.
Around the midway point of my journey into the heart of the Spanish language, I'd made a definite commitment to spend a year of my life living in Spain as an exchange student, with the express goal of using the opportunity to advance my Spanish as far as possible. By definite commitment, I mean I'd filled out the paperwork to study abroad and was waiting to hear back if I'd been accepted. This would have been around January of 2010, though I'd known I wanted to do a full year of study abroad since August of 2009 at least. For comparison, I began applying what would evolve into what I now call the Natural Method in January of 2009. Though a case could be made for earlier in the process, I see the act of sending in my paperwork to commit to the experience as a point when I was definitely, without a doubt across the threshold I described above, the point of no return. By contrast, I've traveled in Italy and France for a scant few weeks, mostly before I knew the respective languages. I lived for a couple months in Portugal, which did help greatly in learning the language. But I still see big differences between my experience solidifying my Spanish while living in Spain for a full year.
The most obvious difference is a question of time spent there, of course. I don't think the actual amount of time is so important, more simply the fact that there was the intention to spend a significant portion of my life living in that culture and that language. When there is that commitment, it acts as a motivating force to continue applying the method. It drives home how real the process is and why you're doing it. And it holds you accountable to being at a certain level of fluency by a certain date. It's harder to not prioritize maintaining your language habits when you know you're going to need them to thrive in a matter of months.
I know I'd said earlier that in-country is the worst place for most to start learning a language, and I stand by that. This is not what I'm saying here. Notice how I’d already been applying the method for nine months before I decided on a definite course and a full year before I’d committed. By the time I went, I’d been applying the method for a year and nine months. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s better to wait until you've worn in your new foundational habits for, say, a half a year at least (I'm throwing that out there to have a number, it's completely arbitrary) and you're already seeing some progress in your language, rather than committing to plans right away. If you plan your time abroad from the very beginning, it's easier to procrastinate and put off ever starting to apply the method. After all, you’re going to go there anyway. It supplants some of the original motivation to find things in the language you love, and without that internal motivation, inertia once again kicks in, as always in favor of the status quo. In this case, the status quo is your native language foundation. On the other hand, waiting to commit to these kinds of plans (not saying you can't dream or brainstorm!) forces you to get your foundational habits squared away. Then, once you're committed to going abroad, inertia kicks in in favor of your adopted language foundation. Because we're not so great yet at our language, it serves as quite visceral motivation to get better. If we haven't started yet, that motivation to not suck in front of other people is all theoretical and abstract, not something we can feel in our body. And I firmly believe that we are more worried about appearing to suck in a new language than being unable to speak the language at all! Using a language we're learning is a very vulnerable experience because we equate fluency and eloquence with confidence, intelligence, success, and value. Speaking a language we're not yet great at can be an experience very challenging to our ego! Waiting to commit by building your base first is an important way to make sure you're willing to go the distance before you pass the threshold, and ensure that you don’t cheat yourself out of your formation in the language. That's my take on it, but I also encourage you to experiment with this idea. Certainly I knew I wanted to study abroad for a year, and long before I committed to it, and that was still a motivating factor to me. When I did commit, I felt like I'd earned the experience, and felt driven to use the rest of the time I had before I left to get even better.
The other aspect I want to draw attention to is the type of experience. It's not a vacation or whirlwind tour across five countries. Like the method itself, my experience in Spain was a deep dive. I wasn't visiting, I was living there. And a year is a long time for a twenty-year-old! Approaching your adventure with this kind of deep-dive attitude creates an entirely different flavor and again encourages you to really focus on building your foundation in the language. I would like to have this kind of experience, like I had in Spain, with the other languages I know. I had a leg up with Spanish because my university made it very easy for me to study abroad. In fact, it was one of the two things I did while at university that most profoundly affected me, and I encourage any student to seriously consider doing it. It becomes more difficult to move your life around like that afterwards simply due to a lack of infrastructure. With universities, you have built-in exchange programs, scholarships, and transfer credits that mean that you don't get behind in your coursework.
This brings us to the one principle that remains:
Principle #5: Make it real. Once your immediate environment is working to shape you in your adopted language and your native language habits have been supplanted, make your plans and book your ticket. Commit to a real, engaging deep-dive in your adopted culture.
Where will your adventure lead next? This, dear reader, is up to you. Perhaps it means studying abroad, or finding a job in your field there (big companies will often help you get your visa paperwork done from what I understand), or taking a sabbatical abroad, or launching a business in your adopting country. The longer the period of time you can commit to, the better, for the obvious reason that it makes learning the language that much more real in your mind! It should at least be a bit outside of your comfort zone. Perhaps all you can manage for the time being is a month-long stay, using your accumulated vacation time. If that's where you're at, you can still make the best of it! It is up to you to explore. How quickly that happens, and for how long, and the level of preparation you're at when this happens, are your responsibility and your freedom. All I can do is provide some further context and resources.
Getting there: Travel Hacking
One reason people don't travel abroad more, at least in the USA, is that flights are long and expensive. I can't help with how long they are, but I can help with the cost. There's an online community of people called Travel Hackers, who routinely use airline miles to get cheap and often nearly free flights to anywhere in the world. Normally it takes ages to accumulate airline miles, but by taking advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses, you can accumulate a lot at once. In fact, a typical credit card sign-up bonus has enough points to get you a full round-trip flight to Europe from the States. The latest card I just got, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, has enough points in its signup bonus for something like two and a half round trip flights, plus other perks to boot. Earlier in 2016 I flew round trip to Romania for $80 and 60,000 Delta miles.
The only catch is that these cards often have minimum spend requirements. With the Sapphire Reserve, I have to spend $4,000 in the first three months I have the card. The key is not to buy a ton of things you can't afford, but rather make it a point to only spend what you would already be spending, just pay for it with the card. And, obviously, pay off your balance each month to avoid paying interest! With websites like plastiq.com, you can even use your card to pay for services or products that don't accept credit cards. Essentially they charge your card then send a bank transfer or check to the company on your behalf. This means you can pay for rent, tuition, bills, etc. with your card and have them earn you points. There's a lot to cover here if you're interested in diving in. If so, check out the resources section in Appendix A.
Ironically enough, it can be much less expensive to travel or live abroad than it would be to stay in your home city. The obvious solution here is to travel to a place where the cost of living is lower, though you are of course limited by where they speak your language. Case in point: an apartment in the center of OKC costs upwards of $1,000. An apartment in the center of Bucharest, Romania, costs upwards of $300, and that's an apartment all to yourself. And I can attest that Bucharest's Old City makes Oklahoma City's downtown look like a podunk village. Even in Lisbon, I could get a room in a shared apartment in the city center for 250 euros.
Once you're there
Here the emphasis shifts to creation of words, ideas, and expressions rather than the mere consumption of them, as it was in the preceding phase, when you were back cozy and comfortable in your home, secure in your typical routine.
This is where many aspiring language naturals stumble. They assume that because they are in their chosen country, and "surrounded" by the language all the time, they can stop doing the things that made them fall in love with the language in the first place. This is the equivalent of being a charming, sexy lady or gentlemen while you date someone, then as soon as you get married or move in together, you become a couch potato, and become lazy, fat, and boring. Make time to be seduced by your language every day while you’re abroad. Consider it a part of your daily grooming, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
On a more concrete level, think about it this way. We learn the language mostly through the inputs we take in: what we hear, see, and read. Many people assume that living in the country is enough, or that because they're trying so hard to communicate during the day with people, they deserve to relax a bit when they get home and do things in their native tongue: surf the internet, read, watch a movie. So even though they're in the country, they're not immersed in their new language. Without realizing it, they've surrounded themselves with their native language. They are running away from the very thing that would make them fluent in their new language: the fun, meaningful, fulfilling parts of life; the leisure, the study, the thinking, the loafing.
Once you're abroad on your adventure, your newest challenge will be making and keeping friends in your language. Partly this is because everyone struggles with using their language in the beginning, because we're terrified of making mistakes and think we'll be judged as both terrible at that language and horrid rotten immoral people to boot. Which is silly! Making mistakes is the only way to learn. The trick is to make mistakes in a low risk setting so you can get the real-time feedback necessary to improve, plus practice speaking despite nervousness or anxiety. Hopefully you'll have had experience doing this from the exercises in Chapter Seven. But really, what exactly do you have to risk from a conversation with a shopkeeper, or a stranger on a tram, or the pretty girl sitting at the cafe? Have fun with it. Laugh at your mistakes. Make others laugh at your mistakes. If someone's rude about it, tell them to piss off and leave the conversation. What if you thought of learning your new language as a chance to circumvent your shy, native self and build a 2.0 version of you, totally confident and sociable? This 2.0 version of you would have all the best bits of 1.0, but with new features and applications and operating systems you want as well, just running in your language. Easier said than done, but also doable, as I know firsthand. Would it surprise you if I told you I used to be incredibly shy? As in, so shy, I couldn't even talk to a girl, and didn't even have my first girlfriend until I was 19. It was bad. I had to teach myself all the social skills most kids take for granted, even simple things like showering regularly and using deodorant (I still remember my sense of horror in the Seminole State Community College computer lab, doing work for one of my concurrent enrollment classes, when I realized that damn smell I kept noticing was coming from me). Want to know what some of my most social comfort zone expanding experiences were? You guessed it- learning and using my languages, particularly Spanish (my first foreign language) and using that in the various antics and shenanigans study abroad students regularly engage in. During my year in Spain was where I really had the quite bizarre sensation of having two, parallel me's that I eventually had to integrate.
Even if you're an extroverted person, you'll still have the challenge of building a social circle from scratch. This is easier if you go abroad to study or for a job, because you'll have a built in social circle. If you're doing something unorthodox, well, it can be correspondingly harder to meet people and develop long term relationships. There's no magic recipe here except to practice being sociable. Talk to strangers that look interesting. Find common ground. Add value to their reality by being interesting and, most importantly, interested in them. Find reasons to see them again and exchange contact details. Go to social events. What are the things you enjoy doing on your own? Go to Meetup.com and find groups doing those things. You get to explore a hobby, passion, or interest and meet people to boot. Pick up something new, like a sport or martial art. Take classes in cooking or poetry. Go to art galleries or plays, and talk to people there. Go out at night and try to talk to as many people in the bar as possible. Get invited to house parties, or throw a house party of your own. Invite the people you meet to spend time with you, and accept the invitations you correspondingly get.
The cool thing about travel is that, if you make an effort in general but especially to hone and use your new language, you can develop a worldwide network of friends. New languages in which you've reached fluency plus a penchant for traveling open a whole new world of social connections. This could be on a simple level, such as it being easier to find places to crash through a network like Couchsurfing, for example. I stayed in Lima, Peru for a month. I first stayed with Peruvian and her family. She spoke some English, but we really connected in Spanish. I credit this as the major reason why she later invited me back to stay the rest of my time there. In fact, her mother made quite a fuss over me, always giving me seconds and thirds at dinner, complaining that I wasn't eating enough, ironing my clothes (without telling me first, otherwise I would not have let her) before a big workshop I was giving, even replacing the thread on a button. She was concerned that the thread on that one button was red rather than white like the rest of the buttons on the shirt. I had to explain that it was a fashion or design statement before she replaced the thread on a couple other buttons she saw with red thread as she handed it back to me. Before I came back to her family's house I stayed for a few days with two Mexicans working in the city that I’d also met through Couchsurfing. I don't recall them speaking English, so it would have been difficult if not impossible for me to have connected with them without my fluency in Spanish. I came back from 7 weeks in Europe about 3 months before writing this. While there, I spent most of the entire time meeting up with friends- oftentimes the same ones- in different countries and cities for events, gatherings, partying, or just plain seeing one another. While there I met several new people that I continue to keep in contact with. Each of these people has brought something special to my life. Even if that something is measured in memories- and what else is there to measure in? This was only possible through language and travel: either because I speak their language, or vice versa, or both. With one new French friend I am keeping in touch with, we communicate in about 50% French (broken, on my part) and 50% English (broken, on both our parts).
Who are we if not our accumulated store of memories and experiences? Travel, once you find your own "style" (which mostly consists of understanding and making use of the world's worth of experiences outside of the international tourism industry), can be a powerful way to make memories and fun stories. You're more in the moment and less plugged in to electronic devices. If you're travelling with friends or to visit friends, you get the shared experience with someone you love. And if you're travelling alone, you're open to the adventure of a spontaneous connection.
Memories will be the only thing we'll have left when we're old, after all, so why not live in a way that maximizes them? And what is our personality, anyway, but a synthesis of all our memories and experiences on this earth? Eric Wilson points out in Keep it Fake that some moments and experiences do indeed feel more alive, more authentic, more true to us and our personal narrative. These are the moments that form our most cherished memories, and the memories we cherish inform who we are. We have found time and we have lost time.
If our memories are what make us who we are, and some moments are more memorable (alive, important, narrative) than others, then perhaps it could be said that the more memories one has, or rather, the more memorable experiences, especially with friends and loved ones, the more one can be sure of their identity and place on this earth. The more they have chased what is important to them. Language and travel, as intertwined entities, are some of the most powerful ways we have of doing so, for those who are called to it.
As a reward for making it this far, I want to share my obligatory faux pas story. Probably everyone has a story like this, and everyone enjoys them because of how hilarious, awkward or embarrassing they tend to be. Here's mine, at least the worst one. I'd just arrived in Valencia and had gone to a nearby city, Alicante. A friend of mine lived there. The second night I was at her place, she invited some of her girlfriends over as the plan was to go partying that night. I offered to make a drink my Dad had showed me how to make, the Vanilla Killa (highly recommended drink, by the way. One girl on a Spring Break trip called it "better than sex". It's vanilla rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, with nutmeg sprinkled on the top). I'd basically finished making it, with the help of a couple of the girls. Turning to my friend, I asked her, can you give me a straw? Except I said it in Spanish as, "Me das una paja?'", paja being the Latin American word for straw.
All the girls in the room start laughing their asses off. Realizing I've said something unintended, I wait for them to collect themselves and ask what happened.
One of the friends pipes up. "You just asked her for a handjob, buddy." I found out later that while a drinking straw is paja in Latin America, in Spain it is a pajita, the diminutive form.
For the time being, though, I said the only thing that popped into my head: "Right, well, what are you waiting for?"
As with any journey, one eventually must come home, though a different person. This is the end of the hero's journey story arc. This doesn't have to be a literal coming home, though in the case of learning a language and traveling to apply it, it often is. Rather, it's the idea that you've reached a stage where you're content with your newfound language ability, and you probably even have a marked personality in your new language if you've spent a couple years becoming truly fluent at it. It's time to focus on new things in your life, new projects or initiatives. In doing so you must integrate your new L2 personality with your old L1 personality, otherwise your journey is not complete.
First, I will say that if you've learned a language to fluency, I don't think you can ever really forget it, because it is so deeply ingrained in you. It may take some time to reactivate the language, particularly being able to speak or write fluidly, but it'll come back. There's probably at least a goodly amount of truth to this, and even if it's not 100% true, I find this to be a much more empowering mindset to have rather than constantly worrying about losing my language skills.
But back to why the integration is important. You see, if the Hero has failed to share his gifts with the world, he's failed his quest. Similarly, if you fail to make your new language self a true part of you, and expressing it and sharing it with the world, then you've failed to apply your experience to grow yourself as a person.
Integration will look like different things to different people. On a practical level, this means continuing to live parts of your life from your adventures and time abroad. Keep in touch with the friends you made- a good rule in general, especially if it helps you sharpen your language abilities. Continue watching the movies and reading the books you first fell in love with. Invite your friends abroad to come and visit you in your home. Host couchsurfers. Do some of the same activities you did abroad that you hadn't done at home. Journal in your new langauge. Mentor international students at your local university. Start a language dorm or immersion cafe (something I've wanted to do for a while, personally).
One last anecdote. After I graduated I worked at the University of Oklahoma Economic Development department for a year. We worked as a resource for local entrepreneurs, essentially. We were helping organize a summer business accelerator, which was facilitated by an entrepreneur named Eric Morrow who came out for the summer to lead it. Eric and I hit it off about language learning, as he'd taught himself French. We talked about how cool it would be to launch an immersion cafe, but how hard it would be to do in a place like Oklahoma City. But then, we were also at a major state university with loads of exchange students. What about a language dorm? How cool would it be to have a dorm dedicated to a certain language, with American students and foreign students living together and a library of resources in that language to utilize. The foreign students would win because they'd have a built-in friend group of Americans. The Americans would win because they'd be immersed in their language. The whole accelerator was about rapid prototyping, so we thought, what if we rapid prototype our language dorm idea? It was summer, so could we get even a small-scale pilot started up for the Fall semester? A bit outside the scope of our job description, but we were excited about it.
Our plan was pretty simple. We'd first show there was student interest by getting a list of about a dozen each of American students learning French and French students coming to the University signed up as interested. Then we'd talk to OU housing and get four contiguous four person apartments to house sixteen people, eight American and eight French. We’d put two American and two French students in each four-person apartment. One of the students living there would be a bilingual community facilitator, preferably a graduate student who had lived in both countries. We spoke to people in the language department, housing, and study abroad, and everyone encouraged us and tried to connect us with resources. We were able to send out emails to both student groups and compiled a sizeable list, despite the fact that many interested students didn't sign up because they already had housing plans.
The housing piece seemed more difficult because the apartments were for the most part already assigned. Then our little experiment was cut short, unfortunately. Unbeknown to us, we'd treaded on the toes of one of the college deans, who complained to our bosses, who told us to stop. The whole thing was amusing in a frustrating way, like being called into the principal's office. It was also sad that intercollege turf wars got in the way of launching what could have been a very cool program that loads of students were interested in. If you're a student, and your university doesn't have a program like this, perhaps you could consider trying to start one.
Anyway, the integration is where things really get interesting. At a Meetup group I organized once we were discussing the role language plays in our conception of the world. I brought up the idea of code switching. Code switching is a fancy term for when one person, often in the same conversation, will switch dialects or even languages if they are bilingual. Easy examples include a black person who speaks "white" around his white friends and "black" around his black friends. On a simpler level, think about how each field, discipline, profession, or even hobby has its own jargon that oftentimes is unintelligible to the outsider, even though the jargon is technically in the same language. On a plane once, I sat next to a Latina, raised in the U.S., who while on the phone spoke half of a sentence in Spanish and completed it in English. As a language aficionado myself, there's something about this ability to code switch between languages with such ease, and even in the same sentence, the way this Latina did, that I find irrepressibly fascinating. It took me thinking about it for a while before I understood why.
The ability to code switch shows the speaker is comfortable moving between both, or multiple, aspects of their identity. The Latina on the plane felt comfortable enough swimming in the murky waters between the concepts of Immigrant Hispanic/English-speaking American to display both aspects of her identity in a public setting. An immigrant, or the child of immigrants, who was ashamed of their heritage wouldn't let themselves use the language unless they had to. How many Southerners, afraid of seeming "slow", suppress their Southern accent when they travel, or even at home? In a situation where a code (language, dialect, etc.) becomes a source of shame, embarrassment, or anxiety the pressure is on the speaker to suppress that code if they have a more accepted alternative to use instead. Even more generally, we tend to become attached to a certain conception of ourselves, a strict and narrow sense of Identity (capitalization intended). To preserve that ego-driven Identity, we suppress the other parts of us that contradict it. Language or dialect is certainly no exception to this, considering that language is the very medium through which we form our sense of self.
But here's the rub. No one has a static, single Identity. Our consciousness (or the illusion of it, depending on who you ask) is a conglomerate of dozens or more fragmented identities that sometimes collaborate and sometimes compete. Brother, son, entrepreneur, engineer, writer, American, Southern, Cosmopolitan. The only thing that stitches them together (sometimes precariously) is the inventive narrative we tell ourselves, with I as the protagonist. The ability language gives us to say I allows us to fabricate the illusion of a single Identity. But, as Whitman put it, "I am large. I contain multitudes." If we recognize the complex, ambiguous nature of our Identity, and are grounded enough in our sense of self and have a sense of the nuances of our own psyche, we can thrive in the vastness of it. When we accept the multitudes within us, we can better integrate them and weave them together. We become more magnetic because we have more poles. Our ego attachment on one single identity fragment has loosened, and no longer constrains us, so we become larger, more liberal, in the original sense of freeing or being freed. More chaotic, but with an order in the chaos. And, like the Latina, we become able to switch dialects or languages mid-sentence when the situation calls for it- which is one sign of exactly such an integrated personality.
Coming home is just a metaphor for completing the cycle of personal rebirth and reinvention. Bringing the Great Boon back to society and reintegrating. In this case, reintegrating our new language and its associated identity into our greater Identity. In the reintegration, we become expansive, we become the multitude that Whitman referenced. I saw this when I was learning Spanish during my year studying abroad in Valencia, Spain. I made it my goal to do everything I could to become fluent in the language. Putting aside my English-speaking identity, I went out of my way to avoid other English-speakers, English language media, and the English language in general. I avoided situations where I would have to code switch into English, even speaking Spanish when another foreign student didn't speak it well. I went overboard with it, without a doubt. When I met other exchange students who didn't speak Spanish well, I avoided them and missed out on making friends. I became frustrated when my progress stagnated towards the middle of the year. I had trouble breaking into the social circles of the native Valencians. But towards the end of my year there, I felt validated in my efforts when a Galician mistook me for a Catalan. Yet I still had to come back to Oklahoma to finish my last year of undergrad.
Coming home after a year abroad is always hard. And it was a fun year. I was torn: I was ready to come back, but I felt like a stranger, a foreigner, in both Spain and the USA. At least at first. I didn't feel like English was "my" language anymore. I had to fall back in love with it after neglecting it for so long. After a couple weeks, life in the U.S. no longer felt weird. I still couldn't code switch. I was in a surreal state where, after a year without practice, my English was garbage and I couldn't really call upon my Spanish, either. I was "home" but not yet integrated. And I'm not sure exactly when that did happen. But I do have a distinct memory of when I code-switched between Spanish and English for the first time after returning to the U.S., perhaps proof that at some point, I'd reintegrated my disparate fragments. It was the story I've already told about when I went with friends to a student conference in Miami, and got drunk the first night in a Cuban owned and operated tapas bar. Already inebriated by the time we got there, I code-switched between Spanish with the staff and English with my friends, having a great time. It felt normal, natural. It felt like part of who I was.
...sees much and knows much