Thursday, April 18, 2013

En español

My second Community Ed class of 2013 is underway!

The last time I studied Spanish formally was when I was 19, and I was comfortable with the language: proficient, though certainly not fluent. I spent three weeks in Ecuador during my sophomore year of college and got a glimpse of the linguistic strides that would be possible by spending a full semester abroad, but I ended up deciding to focus on internships back in the Twin Cities instead.

I graduated and years went by, and I slowly but surely grew less and less comfortable with Spanish - in particular, with speaking. Even now, I still feel okay with reading and writing in Spanish, and can grasp most conversations, but without regular practice, my spoken Spanish has really floundered.

No longer! (Well, I hope.)

For many reasons, I signed up for a weekly intermediate Spanish conversation class. The "intermediate" tag scared me, but the course description seemed appropriate. Even so: I was nervous.

But once you're in class, what are you going to do? Hedge a timid excuse about how you're lousy at speaking Spanish? No, you're going to speak Spanish as best you can, with the understanding that if you keep doing just that, it's going to get easier. That's how it went. Just getting back into the mode of listening and talking in Spanish for 90 minutes was immensely productive: I was surprised by how many verbs and vocabulary came back once it was apparent that falling back on English wasn't really an option (in a low-pressure way). The teacher, who was great, taught probably 90 percent of the class in Spanish, pausing to explain points once in awhile in English. His focus is on getting us to practice talking, and with only five or six other students, it's clear that we'll chat a lot.

A lot came back, but I also had a funny little wake-up about how I had changed since the last time I studied the language: when I was 19, I had no use beyond the basic words for topics on cleaning, cooking, pets and marriage. I clearly did not spend a lot of time musing about these topics in that life stage, because when those topics came up in class, I was barely equipped to discuss them. (Nobody had much to say about cleaning, though!)

I told Josh afterward that even if the class wasn't good, it would still be productive to spend 90 minutes per week in an all-Spanish environment. But I'm happy, of course, that it's better and more than just that. I'm very excited for the next five weeks.

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