Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Funny thing about learning a new language...

...it keeps getting harder. I think I have just come to this realization in the last couple of days. Spanish is not getting any easier. In fact, beyond a doubt - and much to my surprise - it's getting harder.

Four months ago I felt like I was really starting to grasp the language. I was taking courses at a university in a Spanish speaking country, I had made my first friends in a foreign language, obviously it was just a matter of time and practice, right?

Wrong. Four months later my knowledge of the language has grown exponentially, and yet everyday I am reminded at how far I have to go to actually say that I speak this language.

Here's the problem. When you are learning a language you are really focused on the basics. I'm not just talking about the basics like Hola, yo soy Augusto and te odio. No, what I am talking about is that basic collection of say 3000 words or so, and those maybe 300 really common phrases that you will be using all the time. Those are the building blocks (along with the grammer that supports them of course) of basically every conversation. Once you have that down you can have conversations. And there in lies the flaw in my original thinking. I always imagined that when you reached that point you spoke the language. You don't.

What you do at that point is bastardize the language. That's what I have been doing for about the last month or so, bastardizing the language (I had to throw that in for a second time because it is so rare that I get to use the word bastardize, that's three). In a way it's almost worse than when you are learning the language. When you are learning the language you can always say things like "Oh I don't know the pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo yet, that's why I said that wrong." Now, I don't have much of an excuse. As hard as it is to believe I do know the pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo. So now I just go around wisely offering sage advise like "Debes demandar que ellos tragan los tiquetes." (You must sue that they bring the tickets.)

Is it hopeless? Definitely not. I've really learned Spanish. Now if I can only figure out how to speak it...

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