spanish school

Nunca, nunca, nunca cede! — Winston Churchill

Shay, Tyler, and I are all studying Spanish this week at the Iowa Institute. Studying a foreign language can be incredibly frustrating. No matter how much you study, you’ll probably always sound like a foreigner.

If I do learn enough Spanish to make a joke, or meet a new friend, then it’s worth the effort. Unfortunately, I feel like everything I study is running right out of my head immediately. I’m hoping that something will stick, perhaps the past tense conjugations of ‘hacer’. I’m getting individual instruction for 2 hours in the morning, and 2 in the afternoon. It’s intense… I can’t relax while another student is forming a sentence. Being alone has anotherdisadvantage… I can’t feel comforted by the mistakes of others. The only other person in class is a native speaker.

I’ve been told that the best way to learn a foreign language is to relax and let is be absorbed by your brain in the same way English is. Have you ever been told to relax? It’s not that simple. We’re in school, and it feels like we should be doing something active… studying, memorizing, conjugating. When someone is babbling at you and you don’t have any idea what they’re saying, it’s very difficult to relax and absorb.

I remember Dan’s uncle in Oaxaca telling me that he speaks ‘street Spanish.’ I never quite knew how someone could spend years in Oaxaca and NOT speak like a native. Now I understand. If I speak better Spanish by the time I return to the states, it won’t be book-learning Spanish. It will be useful Spanish, enough to get by and make myself understood. I’ll have a better vocabulary. I probably won’t know the proper use of the present subjunctive, and that won’t matter.

I have to learn to accept not being perfect. It would be a lot easier.


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