So, seeing as I’ve been living abroad and studying a foreign language in a foreign country for almost five months, and that I wrote a post earlier about the difficulties (and my frustration) learning another language, I figured a post about how the experience has been seems fitting.
To start, I wouldn’t say that I came to Spain with limited Spanish, but I would say that it could have been a lot better. I took Spanish for six years before college, from 7th grade until AP Spanish my senior year of high school, and…I didn’t love it. I started with Spanish because 1) we had to take a language for at least four years and 2) I had heard that Spanish was the easiest of the three that my school offered. So I enrolled, went to class, did the homework and that’s about it. I wasn’t particularly passionate about it, didn’t really think it would be that useful to me in what I wanted to do and only continued with it to get some college credit out of it.
Flash forward almost three years. Last February, I was at home and away from Temple for a bit. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to major in when I got back to Philly, and all of a sudden, I realized something.
I REALLY missed Spanish.
I hadn’t thought about it in years, but I figured, “What the heck? Why not buy a book in Spanish and see where it takes me? Worst comes to worst, I’ll have lost 9 dollars and 76 cents.” Little did I know that was probably the best 9 dollars and 76 cents I had spent in a long time. The book, titled Classic Spanish Stories and Plays, came in the mail a few days later:
The fact is, I still have yet to finish it, but with good reason. I started reading about El Cid and Lazarillo de Tormes. I dove into El Conde Lucanor, La Celestina and Don Quijote. And, although they weren’t the originals and had been changed so intermediate students could read them, the important point was that I was loving it. I was loving Spanish! So, before I could even finish all of the works, I had ordered another book. It came within two days and, out of excitement, I started that one.
Flash forward again to now. I had switched my major to Spanish, taken two summer classes (Conversational Review and Composition), another in the fall (Honors Hispanic Readings) and, as of yesterday, I’ve completed a full-time semester of Spanish courses. I can’t wait to start my new Spanish classes in the fall and to see where the language takes me.
This language has given me quite the ride. I went from not having any interest in it to loving it so much, possibly more than English. The culmination of my experience with Spanish thus far has definitely been this semester. It’s changed my way of thinking. It’s made me really think about what language is, how we acquire it and why it’s so much harder for us to learn our second language than our first.
My speaking and reading skills when coming to Spain were okay, my writing better, and my listening horribly worse. And since being here, I would definitely say that I’ve improved SO MUCH. I don’t usually realize it and my host mom often has to point it out to me. My fluency has gotten so much better, especially when I’m on my game and when I’ve been speaking solely Spanish for a while. My reading has improved somewhat, though it would have been even better if I had been able to take a literature course. My writing and grammar has gotten even better, and I’m sure my Written Expression grade will reflect that.
The one thing that still bothers me is that my comprehension isn’t where I’d like it to be. It has improved, but I can still listen to the TV sometimes and miss entire sentences. I generally understand my host mom, but my host dad and brother often sound like they’re speaking another language. And although it can be frustrating and quite honestly angering like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, it only wants me to work that much harder to get as good at this language as possible. This semester has been a huge step forward in my acquisition of Spanish. Although it’s just the beginning and I’ve got the rest of my life to keep learning, speaking and improving, I’m sitting here now writing this and listening to Juanes (who I can finally understand!) and I finally feel comfortable saying “I speak Spanish.”