Tuesday, 26 December 2017

My Spanish is far from flawless. Have I failed?

Six months ago, I left Spain without ever reaching the level of linguistic perfection that I set out to achieve when I moved there.

There are many reasons for this, which I will go into at some point. In this post, though, I want to sum up briefly what these six years in Spain have actually done for my Spanish.

I'd been studying Spanish on and off since I was a teenager, and despite a couple of flashy certificates, including several from the London Chamber of Commerce which I clinched sometime back in the nineties, I could never really hold any more than the most basic of conversations. I don't think we ever even touched on the subjunctive, which seems like a bad joke, considering that I was certified to dominate the language to an "Advanced Level."

Little did I know then that it would take another 20 years for my skills to actually warrant this kind of certification. My time in Spain has made all the difference. In a nutshell:


  • I am now fluent in Spanish and can hold my own on any topic, even in a group in a noisy bar. I can listen, read and speak without having to translate in my head.
  • I'm able to read books at normal speed. Novels, biographies, anything. I wont lie - the first five nearly gave me a brain haemorrhage, but after that, things shifted to that very enjoyable place where you get sucked right into the story, rather than labouring over the lines and having to look up every fifth word. I've got tons of Spanish books on my Kindle and I read in Spanish every day. 
  • Besides books, I watch series for escapism, and there's tons of them freely accessible on RTVE (Radio Television EspaƱola). Best of all, they come with subtitles and transcripts! I don't need those to follow the plot, but I like having them turned on so that I can pick out the odd word or useful expression that's not yet part of my repertoire. Every time I watch an episode, I learn one or two things. But watching series is definitely a recreational activity and not "studying." 
  • Spanish is now firmly part of my hard drive. I will never forget it like some language learnt at school or in an evening class. Nobody can take it away from me - it's always available and ready to use for enjoyable activities. 
And I've just realised another thing: there are even advantages to my Spanish not being perfect: It could serve as a tool to expand my social circle, which can be hard to do when you suddenly find yourself being part of "the older generation." So, I've been looking at evening classes for next semester, and I found a couple that might make fertile ground for getting to know new people. They are both advanced level Spanish (C1), centred around conversation and discussing current affairs. Taking an English class to make new friends would be just plain silly, and as for signing up for classes in other languages, I've come to the conclusion that having to focus intently on the various in-class exercises sucks up all of my energy - I have none left for putting on a be-my-friend face. I get so frustrated wrestling with the language that I shut down instead of engaging openly with my classmates. I feel that in a Spanish class, I'd be much more relaxed. Well, that's the theory... I shall report on how it's working (or not) in practice. 



14 comments:

  1. "I have none left for putting on a be-my-friend face." Ha ha! Also, when are you ever in noisy bars??

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    1. The bars thing... only in Spain... but there has to be a tapas contest or something like that involved ;-)

      Gotta go and practice my face...

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  2. Ejem...do i have to remind you that you are responsible for the “mochuga” term??That says a lot about your skill in Spanish!!Btw,i am totally aware that a tapas contest is an invaluable tool in learning languages!Maybe we should look for the equivalent...vodka contest in Russian?? jeje!!!

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    1. I'm in!!! When?! And can we have cocido first?!?

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  3. Sorry google does not recognize me!!!Sure you do;-)

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  4. Looking forward to the "report" on your social circle expansion activities! :-)

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    1. That's going to be a tough nut to crack! Your visits to Munich may be "it" ;-)

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  5. U can also try to enroll on some flamenco classes, you'll meet people just an "e" away from sweet, and besides, you will feel like in Spain with every single kick of your heels :p

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    1. I think... I'd rather eat my own eyeballs...

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  6. This post is a post of two tales. The first half says your Spanish isn't perfect. And then the second half seems to entirely disprove the first half. Frankly, I'm going with the second half's conclusion. So it might be just as silly to take a Spanish class as an English class.

    Why don't you give some Spanish (or English) classes instead? Or do tutoring?

    I strongly suspect you're much better than you think.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where it'd be nice to take some classes... but I can't for various reasons too long to go into here.

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    1. Kim!!! How the heck are ya??? Still in Mexico City? It seems you may have moved to CA??

      The Spanish issue... the crux of it is that it's not like my English, and I really expected to have gotten there before I left. I'm going to write a post about unrealistic expectations ;-)

      Am contemplating... actually, let me rephrase that... I'm seriously considering going into language teaching. I'll be making a phone call next week. And fill in some huge, mind numbing form. Wish me luck. No, wish me endurance instead, lol.

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    2. How about wishing you a lucky endurance? I have to think that with such a passion for language learning that you'd be terrific at it. By the way, do you know about this guy? https://fluent-forever.com/ He's written a book or two about the way to learn a language most efficiently.

      Good luck whatever you do!

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    3. Yes, I've heard about him! I do want to read his book... I shall put it on my list :) I've just applied for a course re. language teaching. Got an interview next week. Let's see how it goes.

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