The month of July has come and nearly gone, bringing with it more days of Arctic sun and more responsibilities to serve the immigrant communities in Iceland. In my role as the primary administrator for the legal counseling service, I have now assisted the acquiry of legal advice for over 20 settling individuals, couples, and families.
Last week, I was presented with a unique situation. While managing the office, a couple immigrating from two different Spanish-speaking countries* came in to seek advice. No lawyers were present, but they requested answers and information, and spoke in Spanish. Without a scheduled appointment, no translator was present. Being scholastically “fluent” in Spanish, I was able to use my language skills to offer help, and tested my own abilities working directly with my second language. Their accents and dialects differed, being from distinct Spanish-speaking regions of the globe, and I learned the limits and capacities of my own understanding of the language’s nuances.
The experience brought light on the many ways a second, third, or fourth language can be useful each day. Being able to understand others, provide help, or partake in conversation in a globalizing world is a great gift, and requires our own efforts. I hope to learn many more languages in my life, as being a respectful traveler, global citizen, or humanitarian is bettered by their being known. Friends I have made in Iceland have come from Poland, Germany, England, and other parts of Scandinavia and Iceland, and each of us knows multiple languages in which we can communicate with one another.
*Limited specificity for privacy protection.