3/03/2008

Learning Spanish in the real world

Paul and I are really working hard at learning Spanish. We are taking lessons from Hector - and the reason we chose him is that everyone we spoke to said that he was hard but that if you really wanted to learn Spanish, he was the teacher to choose.

The thing we want to learn is to communicate verbally...to really be able to talk to people. In class we basically translate sentences in the various tenses for an hour and a half twice per week. There are four people in our class so our turn comes around almost too quickly! There is no way to slack off if you don't understand something so you really have to work to make sure you keep up.

When I first joined Paul's class in order to catch up I was doing several hours of studying each day. Now I am probably working about four hours between classes.

I am frustrated though because I keep comparing myself to Paul. He is doing so well in everyday conversations and I still struggle to find the correct conjugation or tense.

But all in all I am pleased with my progress. I am having better conversations and people don't recoil with horror at having to have a conversation with me like sometimes happened in the past.

I remember one time at Home Depot the clerk wanted to ask us if we wanted to pay for something over time and we couldn't understand her. She grabbed a piece of paper and started writing it out in English...she had been taking classes but couldn't speak! We don't want that to happen to us, but I can sure understand the feeling.

So, for an update, we feel pretty good in the present tense, the imperfect past (-aba and -ía) and the preterite. We are now starting the present perfect (I have) and the past perfect (I had.) We are learning lots of vocabulary and idiomatic expressions.

We have been watching television - trying to catch CNN en español every day and whatever shows we watch usually have subtitles. We listen to Spanish music a lot and also to the radio.

I think the thing I am happiest about is that we don't get nervous when we know we are heading into a conversation with people with no English at all. We have enough Spanish now that at least most of the time we end up feeling proud of ourselves!

So, poco a poco we are discovering that our older minds can learn new things. It's a good feeling.

5 comments:

Steve Cotton said...

I will say it again: the two of you act as an inspiration to those of us who have hard lessons ahead of us.

Gypsy Girl said...

Good for you guys. hang in there it gets easier as you go.
I took spnish lessons for years and studied faithfully every morning for at least 30-60 minutes.
Finally my husband go sick of me taking lessons and said lets go to a spanish speaking country for vacation each year and learn that way. It seems a lot hard in "real time" you feel like a dummy at times, but you learn soooo much faster. Being there and speaking it is the real key and you are right there in Mexico to do it all day long.
¡ANIMO!

CancunCanuck said...

Nancy, I am so envious of your classes! Having a teacher is just not in our budget, classes here in Cancun are priced for tourists if you know what I mean. For a week of classes here, it's the same price as a month of English classes where I work. I have learned most of my Spanish from taxi drivers, they love to talk and they were quite helpful. As a language teacher, my best advice for you is to just get out there and use what you've got, don't ever apologize for mistakes, just make the correction and move on. Confidence has soooo much to do with the process, you've got to feel good about what you do have and don't worry too much about what you don't have or other people's levels. Kudos to you for working so hard, I look forward to hearing about your progress!

Felicidades y mucha suerte!

Jonna said...

Wow! Again I am really impressed with both of you and your organization and self discipline. Shoot, I understand most tenses but I only use a few.

The Canucka is right, you have to give up your ego and get out there and sound stupid! It's funny but sometimes I can tell that the people I'm talking to just think I'm a little slow, not that I am missing words.

wayne said...

I so admire that you are learning and not making up some excuse like we're too old. My Spanish isn't the best by a long shot, but I meander my way through every day life with it. Of course, it helps when people "dummy down" their Spanish so that I can understand!