Saturday, December 1, 2012

struggle well

Christmas decorations have gone up!
 Remember how I moved to Spain, even though I've never taken a Spanish class in my life? (Okay, fine, I had a four-week rotation in seventh grade, when my school was letting us try out all of its foreign languages; but needless to say, I picked French, so my Spanish never progressed past "Hola, Se├▒ora.")

So, after two and a half months, I think it's time to talk about speaking Spanish.

When I arrived, I could ask for directions, order coffee, and exchange basic pleasantries and personal information ("I'm an American from Virginia," "Virginia is close to Washington, D.C.," "No, it's not close to New York or Los Angeles"). This was about it. But nonetheless, I had to accomplish things like acquiring a cellphone and a pet-friendly apartment. I managed to blunder through with a combination of big smiles, apologies for my abysmal Spanish, and friends who went to the real estate agent's office with me.

I've improved a lot since then. I can have actual conversations--real ones, about real things, like the general strike,* or Thanksgiving, or what I did last weekend--and use more than one verb in more than one past tense. I would estimate that, as long as people speak clearly, and directly to me, I can understand 80-90% of what they say.

All of this represents an incredible improvement from when I arrived. I've gotten there the old-fashioned way: by speaking Spanish. At school, I almost entirely communicate in Spanish (with the teachers, obviously, not the students). When I hang out with Spanish-speakers, I don't let myself stay in the huddle of expatriates. And I'm lucky in that no one speaks English in Lugo, so if I'm at a shoe store and need to try a size 38 in the boots I want, it's not like I can wimp out. The same goes for the bus station, or the grocery store, or my Internet provider's office. I have to struggle on through. This is incredibly valuable experience, for anyone trying to learn a foreign language.

Still, I feel so awful sometimes, when I'm struggling so, so hard to make myself understood, and the words are just not coming out. I feel so stupid. I feel like I'm wasting people's time.

I know the only thing I can do is keep trying (or go home, I guess, but I don't want to do that). But sometimes, it's hard.

Also, these pictures have nothing to do with this post. Sorry I don't have any reaction shots of Spaniards' faces when I (try to) talk to them to share instead. That'd be funnier.

a happier time

*Please not that shit did not get this real in Lugo. Lugo's strike was such a non-event it was comical.

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