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Breaking the Language Barrier

As our time in Cuenca nears its end, I’m finding that I’m getting really stressed out about the end of our “term” My Spanish final promises to be a doozy and I might be a little over my head with my tapestry design for my art class. I could be writing my paper for Spanish right now, but thinking in nothing but Spanish for the last nine hours has really worn me out.

Today was the first Spanish class that actually had me concerned about my progress in the language. We were learning about the past subjunctive tense and if you know what I’m talking about, I’m sure you know how anxious it can make someone learning it for the first time. I’ve been told by many people that they’ve gotten away with using the basic verb tenses and they barely use the subjunctive, but my biggest problem with Spanish has always been my split personality with the language. I feel like my basic use of grammar structure has created a separate Spanish personality because I can’t express Liz in Spanish in the same way I would English. In English, you are likely to hear me say something like “My friend suggested that I should bring my iPod for the trip” It’s a simple sentence I took for granted until today. The translation into Spanish isn’t exact, but when it took me a full thirty seconds to come up with “Mi amiga me sugirió que yo trajara mi iPod para el viaje” it was beyond frustrating. Verb conjugations have always been my weak point and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to contribute to a conversation, but had to stop to think about how to say the verb correctly. By the time I’ve finished conjugating and forming my sentence, the moment has passed and the conversation has moved on. I can be kind of quiet on my bad verb days.

On days like today when I use Spanish more often, I feel almost fluent; but it takes a bit of warm-up to get to the point where I can say more than a few sentences in Spanish. I’ve had several conversations but I still contributed less than I would have, had the conversation been in English. My goal is to be comfortable enough with speaking Spanish so that I can be one person again. It can be infuriating when you have something to say, but don’t know the right way to express it. Someday, I’d like to be able to expand my conversation from “And this woman is a teacher? How awful” to “I think it’s ridiculous that this woman thinks she should retain her right to teach children when she herself cannot answer fourth-grade level questions in her own subject.” (This taken from an actual “this is what I thought and this is what I actually said” moment at breakfast one morning as I was watching the news with my host mom…It was the best reaction I could come up with on the spot at seven in the morning). Give me enough time to think about it and I could write beautiful poetry in Spanish, but it’ll take some practice to be able to apply that beautiful language to improved conversations. The only way to get to that point is to keep talking. ¡Hasta luego!

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