I’m taking some time to write about a language learner I admire: Michael Langell, my uncle, who died on Wednesday at the age of 70. He was a Glenmary missionary — Glenmary is a Catholic group that builds Catholic communities mainly in the Protestant-dominated American South. He worked in Tennessee and North Carolina, and in the 1990s his congregations swelled with Spanish speakers from Mexico and Central America. Rather than throw up his hands, he started learning Spanish. He was well into his 50s by that point, but went to immersion programs in Cuernevaca, Mexico and continued taking college-level classes in the US. In his parish, he worked on the homily with a native Spanish speaker, who delivered the homily. A lifelong priest (though as a young man he was a great ball player recruited by the Detroit Tigers), he was a humble guy, so never made great claims for his Spanish, and probably traded homily duties because he wanted a native speaker to give important messages. But he was more effective in the language than he let on, and that was the point: he wanted to be effective, and he did what he had to do to care for people the right way, which was to speak their language. Resto en paz, señor, tio mio.