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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : I Stunk It Up Today » I Stunk It Up Today

I Stunk It Up Today

Rusty - May 16, 2010

Today I was assigned to speak in the Sacrament Meeting in one of the Spanish wards in our stake. I stunk it up. Badly. Like, my baby’s diapers level of stink. I’d like to use the excuse that it’s been 12 years since I’ve spoken to a large group of people in Spanish, but that’s not true. It’s my second time, my first being a few months ago at the Spanish branch in Staten Island, which went pretty well, considering. But today? Unbelievably bad.

What went wrong? My Spanish sucks. It’s like there’s something in my head that has painted over 75% of the words I used to know leaving me standing there like an idiot trying to figure out how to say the simplest thing, everyone staring at me in silence, then I delay with a, “como se llama…” (how do you say…) and a “pues…” (well…) and a “bueno…” (okay…) ending with a “el no estuvo feliz.” (he wasn’t happy.) It reminds me of my first area in the mission, me trying to avoid eating the gross food in front of me by saying I had a stomach ache, but didn’t know how to say that, so I strung together some words I did know, “mi estomago no está feliz.” (my stomach isn’t happy). Yes, I felt like an idiot then and I felt like an idiot today.

It’s funny because I’ve never been one to be nervous teaching or speaking. I actually enjoy it. Ever since my seminary teacher allowed time at the beginning of every class for anyone to get up and share anything they’ve learned, which I often did, I’ve always enjoyed sharing my thoughts. I guess part of that is evidence in my original desire to have my own blog.

I was talking with my wife last night about the various differences (and pros and cons) of teaching and speaking (she had to prepare her youth Sunday School lesson while I was preparing my talk). At first I was saying I’d rather prepare a lesson because you just need a solid outline and some solid questions and assume the class will fill in the rest, which usually turns out to be a solid lesson. Speaking you have to come up with the outline AND the filler. But then I thought about how once you’re done speaking for 15 minutes it’s over. And today, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

11 Comments »

  1. Well, I’ve never had to speak in another language (my mission was the OC) but I’ve done plenty of speaking and I have occasionally had some very bad times. Unfortunately, one of the worst was my mom’s funeral. I just could not think of the things I wanted to say and I was exhausted from all of the funeral preparations and writing the obituary. I always wish I had another chance to say what I wanted to say about my mom.

    Regardless, sometimes you find you just don’t have it. Usually when that happens to me it’s because I didn’t prepare adequately, either because I underestimated the level of preparation necessary or because I just didn’t have time to prepare like I wanted to. I bet if you were able to practice your spanish for a while, you’d have been much better. Better luck next time.

    I would also say that a lesson is generally easier to prepare than a talk, but a really good lesson (which you don’t see that often) requires as much preparation as a talk.

    We put a high premium on speaking and teaching in the Church, and rightly so. Our church would be awful if we didn’t all try very hard to be good at those things. I always appreciate it when someone puts a lot of effort into a talk or lesson. But I also understand when sometimes it doesn’t go well. Everyone has those days. Just don’t ever start a talk with “Please bear with me” (or its spanish equivalent). That’s the kiss of death right out of the gate.

    Comment by MCQ — May 16, 2010 @ 7:33 pm

  2. I never speak in Church from anything more than sketchy notes and quotes. UNLESS I’m speaking in Spanish. Then I try to prepare something close to a complete text, so that I can look up in advance the words that I don’t remember. I may not follow the text precisely, but the exercise of preparing it at least gives me most of the vocabulary I need.

    Comment by JrL — May 17, 2010 @ 8:05 am

  3. Yeah, I agree with JrL — why not write out the talk? Then if you get stumped you have something right in front of you. Better yet, write it out and practice it enough so that the execution sounds/feels like it’s extemporaneous.

    Even though I felt like I achieved a certain proficiency with the language on my mission, I also wrote out all my talks on my mission. There ain’t no shame, brother!

    Comment by Hunter — May 17, 2010 @ 8:48 am

  4. I don’t know how any of you speak another language! I took 2 years of Russian in High School and can only remember about 15 words.

    As far a lessons go, I agree with Rusty….the problem is I taught Priesthood today and skipped my most important part of the lesson I had outlined. How did I do that? I don’t know, I just screwed up. So even with written outlined lessons so of us still “Stink it up”.

    Comment by Don — May 17, 2010 @ 11:04 am

  5. That explains why I chickened out of bearing my testimony in a meeting in Japan 33 years after I served in that branch as a missionary–the near certainty that I would draw a complete blank when it came time for the most important word. I agree with Hunter, Rusty–next time write it out. Word for word.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 17, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  6. I taught Priesthood today and skipped my most important part of the lesson I had outlined. How did I do that? I don’t know, I just screwed up.

    There’s another way to look at that: you were inspired by the Spirit to skip that part. The difference between screwing up and following the Spirit is often just in the mind of the beholder.

    Comment by MCQ — May 17, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

  7. Yes, next Spanish talk will definitely be completely written out.

    Comment by Rusty — May 17, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

  8. It could be worse.

    On one of my mission trips to Mexico, years ago, one of the women was trying to give her testimony in Spanish. She was trying to talk about herself, and what she wanted to say was, “Tengo dos perros,” I have two dogs.

    What she said was, “Tengo dos pedos.” I have two farts.

    Comment by Ms. Jack — May 17, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

  9. Again, that’s something that could have been dictated by the Spirit, Jack.

    Comment by MCQ — May 17, 2010 @ 9:35 pm

  10. Oh man, I feel ya, Rusty. The rack-focus feeling of dying up there. As my daughter would say, “…cricket…cricket…”

    I don’t have problems with other languages (I don’t know any), but I have to admit, I give good talks in church. Good talks and lousy testimonies. I gave a talk in sacrament a month ago, I’m still getting approached about it. During my last testimony, though, I quoted– and cited!– the Talking Heads. Even as the lyrics were emitting from my lips like persistent old bus fumes, I’m yelling in my head, “what the hell, you putz?!!” I don’t get approached after my testimonies, I get wide berths.

    Two things always happen after I give a talk: 1) I’m completely drained for the rest of the day. You’d think I just played the Garden; 2) I hate it when people come up to me afterward, and I feel like an ungrateful jerk for feeling that way. And it’s not like I can say, “please, really… keep it to yourself.” But that’s what it is. I cringe in the face of praise.

    So there my curse lies: Love giving good talks, hate being told I just did. I’m sure there’s a pithy Jack Nicholson line in there somewhere.

    Comment by David T. — May 17, 2010 @ 10:39 pm

  11. Talking Head lyrics are always welcome in my Sacrament Meetings.

    Comment by ESO — May 18, 2010 @ 5:20 am

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