When we were on holiday in Europe, I had so many things I was going to start doing when I got back. Read! Not spend hours in FB/IG! Gym! Pilates! Learn spanish! Write! every. damn. day. Some I have achieved, some not so much. But one thing I got stuck into straight away was starting back up with my old Spanish teacher.
We studied with her for a few months quite a few years ago but stopped when it became hard to manage Jared’s changing work schedule. I’d always wanted to start back up but never did, until we got back from our trip. It’s now been nearly four months of 2 x 1hr sessions per week and, while I wouldn’t say I’m fluent and watching Narcos without subtitles, I can certainly see some very slow, painstaking progress taking place. Next year, I’m increasing to 3 x 1hr per week as I feel it’ll ‘stick’ more.
In my opinion, the hardest thing with learning another language – after simply building up your vocabulary so you know the damn words to say what you’re thinking – is confidence. It’s so hard to go from talking fluently and knowing literally millions of words to being reduced to a few handfuls and cast adrift in a sea of tenses and prepositions, which make absolutely no sense to you. Oh, and don’t get me started with the whole gendered nouns thing. What the hell is wrong with Spanish/French/German/Portuguese speakers? Just ditch that shit already – why do you torment yourselves? Or more to the point, everyone else who’s trying to learn your language?
My Spanish teacher has gotten to the point where she talks to me in Spanish and I can understand quite a decent amount (and when I can’t, I know how to say ‘que significa xxx?’ – very handy words, I tell you). It’s when she expects me to speak back that things go pear-shaped. I feel sooooo stupid. I’m slow. I have great need to write things down before I speak. I fuck up the tenses. I fuck up the matching of the gendered nouns and the plurals. I fuck up the prepositions – damn prepositions, who would have thought they’d be so difficult? Basically, I’m reduced from being someone who is relatively articulate )on a good day) to child-status. It’s humiliating.
And yes, I know this is how I have to learn and I know I went through all this as a kid to be able to speak English but DAMN if it isn’t a huge blow to my self esteem to struggle to make myself understood like this. It gives me a whole new appreciation for people who come to an English-speaking country and try and learn our fucked up language. My Spanish teacher has lived here for years (is married to an Aussie guy) and I regularly show her something new or correct her spelling or pronunciation. We laugh about it together but it just goes to show speaking English/other languages is HARD.
But then again, I don’t think there’s any language that’s easy to learn as an adult – unless it’s something that’s already similar to what you speak, like maybe Italian and Spanish or something like that. Starting over from scratch with something as essential as communication – verbal and/or written – is such a drastic thing. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I was trying to learn something like Mandarin or Russian where I also had to learn a new alphabet. Fuck. That. Shit. Not a fucking chance, senor!
There was a Nepalese guy that started at one of Jared’s bars a few years ago. When he first came on board, he could barely speak a word of English. Most communication was by pointing and charades but, after a few months, you could see the improvement. That element of being thrown in the deep end and absolutely needing to speak this new language meant he picked things up fast. Now he’s pretty much fluent, cracks jokes all the time (being funny in another language – fucking hard!) and is running the back of house team across two of Jared’s bars. He’s one of the most respected people in Jared’s business and, a few years ago, he could barely speak English.
Ok – I went a bit off tangent there. It happens. My point is: language is hard. I’m not being thrown in the deep end so I don’t see myself excelling anytime soon although I do think three days a week will give me more of a chance to practice without such long breaks in between each session. We’ll see how it goes. It definitely gives me purpose and I like it – even if it does make me feel stupid for the time being. I know if I keep at it, it will pay off and I’ll be doing conversation-only classes in no time (ha – we’ll see!).