Being able to speak another language is a difficult feat that should be celebrated more than it is. Being able to think, listen, and talk between two (or more) languages takes lots of practice. Patience is required of the speaker and of those that listen to them. For this, I can’t thank the people of Ecuador enough.
I’m convinced trial and error in a completely immersive situation is the fastest way to learn. However, if it wasn’t for 6 years of Spanish classes, I would’ve drowned. Actually, I still feel like I’m drowning when I sit at a table with all native speakers until all of a sudden they all start laughing so I laugh too because I wish I was able to fully understand what’s going on. I might’ve caught the word for a day of the week or a color, but especially at the end or the beginning of the day when my brain isn’t at full power, I tend to zone out.
In my Spanish classes, I learned how to conjugate verbs, memorize vocabulary, read in Spanish, give (very rehearsed/memorized) presentations and listen to clearly pronounced, slowly spoken Spanish. Here, I’ve learned that “que” followed by a an adjective is equivalent to saying “how *adjective*”; I’ve learned that “ya voy” means “I will” or “I’m coming” (haven’t completely figured it out); I’ve learned that “mandé” basically means “what” when someone calls your name; I’ve learned when you want to say “sorry” because you bumped into someone or because you spilled something, you shouldn’t say “lo siento” but instead “perdón”; I’ve learned the words for dinner and sh*t are extremely close to each other; I’ve learned that you don’t say the “o” at the end of the word “primero” if it is used as an adjective before a word; and I’ve learned “chevere” is how you say “cool”.
I’m sure somewhere along the years, I’ve had Spanish teachers tell me these rules, words and examples, but when you don’t think you’re going to actually NEED it or when it isn’t the most important thing in your life at the moment….you don’t remember the little things.
Recently, I’ve had a lot of people whom I interact with on a normal basis (mostly other teachers and extended family) tell me my Spanish is getting better – it makes me feel so great!! Often, when someone asks if I speak Spanish I say “poquito” which means “very little”. But I’m becoming more confident and am slightly regretting not double majoring in Spanish or at least getting my minor.
As much as I don’t want to admit it, I’m so thankful for my junior year Spanish teacher, Mrs. Shahin, for not letting my quit taking Spanish to co-op cosmetology school. I was so mad at her at the time because she wouldn’t sign off for me to take the course, and when she told me that I had potential I thought she was crazy. Apparently, it took me more than 6 years for me to realize what she saw. I pray to God, I have the same effect on my future students that she had on me.
The struggle is real when it comes to learning a foreign language and because I’m enjoy this struggle, I’m looking forward to learning more Spanish (or possibly other languages, too!). The language learning process is extensively complex and analyzing all the different factors would take more than a lifetime. However, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to learn a foreign language while teaching a foreign language and it has changed my mindset.
So here’s a quick shoutout to everyone who can speak more than one language – you rock. Everyone who wants to speak more than one language – you can do it. Everyone who teaches foreign languages – thank you, you’re knowledge is worth more than your students realize. Everyone who is a teacher – you impact students everyday, thank you for being a positive one.