How learning Spanish teaches me about prayer

For the past two weeks I have been kicking the tires on this little app called Duolingo

The gist of the site is that you can learn a language for free and as you become more proficient in that language you can actually work to translate the web into another language. 

Yes, you can help translate the entire interwebs. If your mind is not blown by this concept and learning model then I am unsure what would.  

Here is the thing, a co--worker of mine speaks Spanish and is excited to hear that I a trying to learn. She is encouraging and talks to me in Spanish. She asks me questions and asks me to speak to her in Spanish.

 She is so darn happy and excited that someone else is trying to learn her native language and taking an interest in her culture. She is excited that she has the opportunity to share what she knows and takes great joy out of helping me speak her native tongue.

I should be excited and encouraged by her joy and energy. I should feel safe to speak the 93 words of broken Spanish I can cobble together.

But all I feel is embarrassed.  

The insecure part of me convinces me that I should not speak Spanish unless I can speak it as a native speaker. I should not speak Spanish because I will make a mistake and muck it all up. I will look like a fool and an idiot in the company of other Spanish speakers. 

All of this made me think about when I encounter someone who is a beginner in prayer. That is to say, someone who may feel comfortable praying on their own but embarrassed to pray aloud. Who might feel that they should not or cannot pray aloud in the presence of others who might be more fluent in the language of prayer and so they do not practice the language. Who are surrounded by people telling them that it is okay if they make a mistake because everyone knows they are still learning, and yet still is embarrassed.

Perhaps it all boils down to becoming vulnerable when we are speaking a language that is new to us. When we speak the new language we put ourselves out there in a way that everyone can see our inadequacies, failures, struggles and ignorance. 

And so, how do you get someone to be confident and courageous enough to speak a new language in the presence of others? How do you make a space safe enough for all the insecurities we all carry can be put down and we can feel comfortable practicing our Spanish (or Prayer) language?