Thursday, August 28, 2014

Profesional Spanish Student

Learning a second language is difficult. It can be frustratingly slow, and as I've said before, my confidence level comes and goes in waves, depending on the hour or day or who I'm talking to.

When we arrived to Guatemala last year, we took 2 months of intensive Spanish study. We had the disadvantage of not being able to live with a host family. The best way to learn a language is to truly be immersed. This wasn't feasible with two little ones, so we spent our afternoons studying, doing homework, and speaking to each other in English.

In our context, MCC will provide up to three months of language study. After our initial two months we had two weeks of orientation in Pennsylvania, followed by three weeks of orientation with the outgoing reps, and then we started working. I definitely could have used another month of Spanish.

I arrived with a very basic level of Spanish. I had taken 2 1/2 years of Spanish in high school, and even did well on the National Spanish Exam (for geeky Spanish students). But, more than ten years after high school, there was a whole lot I didn't know and more that I couldn't understand.

Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to take more Spanish classes throughout the last year. I took some classes last September. Then I took some more a few months later, followed by more in the Spring. After our first-year work evaluation with our bosses, it came to all of our attention that I needed more Spanish. It was humbling (even humiliating?) to admit that I needed to take even more classes. Finally, I took another chunk again over this summer, in between visitors and travelers and work schedules.

One of my biggest hindrances has been that I can go days without speaking Spanish. I do a good amount of reading and writing in Spanish, however. I need to continue to seek out places to practice my Spanish. Each round of classes over the last year has helped me focus on different aspects. I think I can finally say I'm done taking formal classes. I'm not sure I can afford any more time away from work, and I think my Spanish is at a level where I can continue to read and push myself on my own.

I'm ever so grateful for the flexibility and opportunities I've had to continue pushing through the frustrations and slow learning that I've had throughout the year.
4 out of the 5 teachers I've had throughout the year.
I have joked with the teachers at the school where I took classes that I've been an "estudiante profesional" (professional student). The staff and teachers there have been so supportive and lately have repeatedly told me how much they've seen an improvement compared to a year ago. I'm even considered an "advanced" student, something that makes me proud. I recently read another novel in Spanish, which I couldn't have imagined reading several months ago. I was even more proud of the fact that I could read several pages in between needing to look up a word in the dictionary.

I still have a lot to work on, but I have to remind myself that considering how little I sometimes hear and speak Spanish in my daily routine, I've come a loooooong way. I understand the majority of what most people say, and that improves daily. I feel more comfortable with different tenses and forms that don't translate in English.

And, the highest complement and note of progress came just the other day. A woman who we work with on banking stuff, and who I haven't seen or spoken to in several months, just paused in the middle of our conversation to tell me how good my pronunciation is. WOW! Big progress made here. I still pronounce things funny and need to keep working, but it made me feel like it's been worth the hard work.

I have a few Spanish novels sitting on my table, which I'm excited to read. Michael and I joined a young married persons' Bible study/discussion group, and of course, the book we are reading and the discussions we have are in Spanish. I think this means I'm advancing...

I'll end with some recent Spanish blunders. I know I have more, but I can't remember them at the moment:

-I meant to say "Donde pagamos?" (Where do we pay?), but I said, "Donde pegamos?, (Where do we glue?)

-"Necesito un mente," (I need a mind), when I wanted to say, "Necesito una menta" (I need a mint.)

-My teacher told me I need to be careful when I pronounce "pagina," ( because if I don't pronounce it correctly with the accent, it sounds like I'm saying (va-HEE-nah...vagina).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hang out with more Guatematecos on a regular basis and focus on developing those friendships. Are you attending a Spanish or English speaking church?