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Learning and Loving Spanish

16 April 2013
I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the Spanish language. I was raised in a home with a native Spanish speaker who didn't teach the language. I'm still pretty bitter about this - I could be bilingual, dangit! I had absolutely zero desire to learn Spanish in Junior High. I really wanted to take German (I still do.) My mom forced me to sign up for Spanish classes though, and I stayed enrolled for four years. My first two years, in junior high, I did well in class. It was easy for me to pick up the language.

The third year, my teacher was an idiot. He had no idea how to handle a room full of 13 year olds and he was not good at controlling the awful boys in that class. I am certain I was put into that class because I was calm and the class maker person wanted to keep the balance between calm kids and rowdy kids. It didn't work. The rowdy kids reigned and none of us learned anything.

So in my fourth year, I was totally lost. I had no idea what was going on in class and I hated it and I hated the language. That was my last year of Spanish instruction, my sophomore year of high school in 2001.

In 2004, I had the opportunity to go on a service medical mission to Guatemala for two weeks. Despite not studying the language at all, once I got in country, it only took a day or two before I understood about 70% of what people around me were saying. It was SO COOL. I fell in love with the people of Guatemala and their delicious pineapple and lemonade fresh from the grove. If you have a chance to visit Antigua, take it!

When Sparrow was born, I felt bad that I wasn't fluent in Spanish. I would have loved to raise him in a bilingual home. When my brother got called to Paraguay on his mission, I was jealous. I wanted to go live in a Spanish speaking country for two years! Now Brother will get home and be able to talk to everyone in the Mexican side of our family and I'll be left out again. Not fair, not fair. Wah wah wah.

So I signed up to take Spanish 105 over this semester. My first two days in the class, I seriously thought I was going to die. We had a substitute teacher and he was so hard to understand. I had no idea what was going on and it seemed like everyone else did (but I later found out over half the class was totally confused by that guy too.) When my real teacher came to class, I breathed a sigh of semi-relief. I still didn't think I could do the work, but I couldn't drop the class either. If I dropped the class I would have been under my credit requirement and BYU would have kicked me out (and I'd have lost my student funding too, which we used heavily over the last 4 months to survive.)

I've struggled, it's true. But as I've struggled to retain the grammar and the SO MANY DIFFERENT FORMS of speaking, something kind of unexpected has happened. I've once again fallen in love with Spanish. For reals. I finally have both the desire and the ability to continue on in learning this beautiful language. (And it's a desire that goes beyond just wanting to be included in a conversation with my Mexican grandparents, so there.) I don't think I will ever achieve 100% fluency, or even 90%. But I am working on it, and I can see myself getting to 80% fluency. With maybe 60% of that being correct fluency (I mean, I can get a point across, but it takes a while and I use lots of weird words.)

It's so cool to be able to understand another language. I understand 85% now of what is said to me and that is AWESOME! Sometimes, I start to think in Spanish. The other day, I watched a commercial on the Spanish channel and I understood the entire thing. It was increible! Not only am I benefiting from this strange, brain-stretching knowledge acquisition, but Sparrow has benefitted too. We've watched a few Disney movies in Spanish and he loves "Cenicienta/Cinderella." He asks me "Mom, how do you say X in Spanish?"

And today he says "I speak Spanish AND English, madre!" Oh little Sparrow, you have so far to go. But yes, you do speak Spanish and English. Kinda.

I may never understand how to properly use the subjunctive form. I may switch preterito and imperfecto all the time. I may always make up my own words ("I'll be right back-o!") But dude, I can understand stuff. I can go to an El Salvadorean restaurant and order food without feeling like a total moron. I can roll my R's like a native. Someday, I will be able to go to Spain and understand the people around me. I'll visit Guatemala again and play Simon Dice (Simon Says) with los niños in la calle.

It makes me want to baile!

Ask me how I feel about it next week after I have taken my Oral Proficiency Interview and my Spanish 105 Final Exam, though, and my answer may change. Gulp.

3 comments to Learning and Loving Spanish:

LCannon said...

Good for you. Not just for getting it down, but for patting yourself on the back as well.
My little girl (well, she's really not so little) is there at BYU even as we speak (blog) she is with her third grade class having an Espanda field trip. If they speak any English today, they have to go to jail.

scott davidson said...

I have been looking to learn spanish since long time and I am glad that i found online website brightspanish.com that offers Free Spanish Classes. They offers LIVE one-way video chat that is very helpful for those who are looking to learn spanish online.

scott davidson said...

I have been looking to learn spanish since long time and I am glad that i found online website brightspanish.com that offers Free Spanish Classes. They offers LIVE one-way video chat that is very helpful for those who are looking to learn spanish online.