Years ago, back when my husband and I first got married, we spoke Spanish at home. We met in Spain, and we spoke Spanish over there. In fact, he was the one who taught me Spanish. So it seemed natural to keep speaking Spanish once we came to the US.
Hubby started taking ESL classes through the community, but even with that, it seemed like his grasp of the language was very slow. He was having a hard time adjusting to the new culture, and even finding a job. We went to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving, and she gave us advice that really changed our lives.
She told us to speak English at home. We’d tried before, but I became impatient with him, because he couldn’t express himself well. He also found it easier to switch to Spanish if he couldn’t figure out how to say it in English. We told her that it was too hard to just switch to English.
Her response was:
Just do it for one day. For one day speak English at home. And when you’ve done it that day, then do it the next day. Take it one day at a time until it becomes natural.
We were a little skeptical, but we decided to try it. She’s a very wise woman, and we wouldn’t lose anything by at least trying. We tried for one day. It was a long, exhausting and frustrating day, but we got through it. At the end of that day, we realized that we’d spoken only English for one day. Then we tried the next day. We spoke English for the second day, reminding ourselves that it was one day at a time.
After a few weeks of our ‘one day at a time,’ Hubby started to have amazing progress in his English class. Suddenly, he started shooting through the levels, passing the tests, until he took the TOEFL. (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and did well. Six months later, he was attending classes at the community college, and then a year and a half after that, he transferred to a university.
It was amazing to see the results of one day at a time. It was work, and yes, it got frustrating, but we worked through it. Baby steps sometimes makes a huge difference.