When I started writing this post it marked it was our 11 “monthiversary” in Barcelona. We left Vancouver with the intention of staying until November of last year, funny how those things work. While my language skills have come a LONG way in that time I am still far from fluent, every day I am come up short on vocabulary, use the wrong tense or gender in a sentence or make any other number of mistakes. Unlike Jamu, I’ve had the luxury of time to study Spanish and therefore haven’t had to learn by immersion alone. In total I’ve taken about 200 hours of Spanish instruction over the past year and I can’t say enough how much that has worked for me. That said, the way you really remember something is to through repetition, so my best Spanish is by far is situational Spanish I use often: shops, introductions, restaurants etc..
Now that my job situation has changed so have my language needs. On top of doing massage part time at this chiropractic clinic, I have also started teaching English. Knowing the names of the general parts of the body in Spanish in one thing, explaining why your shoulder hurts is another. Thankfully, at the clinic my clients are all adults and if there is some confusion we can usually get by with Spanglish and hand signals.
The language school is entirely different. I had not wanted to teach English as I thought it wouldn’t help me improve my Spanish. Turns out that when you teach 5-8 year olds a new language you end up having to speak their language, a lot. Between teaching youngins and teenagers I’ve had to brush up on all my imperatives (or commands): Don’t do that! Sit down! Pay attention! Don’t put that in your mouth!!. Obviously these aren’t things I say to adults on a day to day basis so they didn’t roll off the tongue too easily to start. Now I can be pretty demanding in both English and Spanish.
Sometimes I wish I could just push a button and become fluent over night but that’s not going to happen. The same way it’s hard to notice gradual changes in appearance of someone you see everyday, it’s hard to see progress until you have a milestone or bench mark to compare it to. A few recent ones for me were realising that the idea of a phone call in Spanish no longer fills me with a sense of dread and that when I eavesdrop on the metro I can understand quite a bit of the conversation. They are small things but important to keep me motivated to improve.