Sunday, November 28, 2010

Operation Fluency

Call me a nerd, but I LOVE learning languages. I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be learning Spanish. There was a time in Thailand when I somewhat dejectedly accepted the fact that I would never know another language as well as I did Chinese. After all, I‘d had the benefit of university courses and full-immersion language programs to help me. But oh, how times have changed.

Spanish and I, we’re going to be best friends. Best friends forever, even. BFFs. I don’t just want to get by in Spanish, speaking enough to order food and direct a taxi. I don’t just want to formulate broken sentences, stringing enough words together to have the same simple conversations over and over again about my family, work, and where I’m from. I don’t want to only know the conjugations of verbs in the forms that I use and need most frequently. In fact, I don’t want even a part or a little bit of anything . . . I want it ALL.

I want to casually read the newspaper with my cup of coffee in the morning, skim a Garcia Marquez short story in the afternoon, and dip into Cervantes’ Don Quixote before I fall asleep at night. I want to make grocery lists, write emails, and keep my journal in Spanish. I want to know every conjugation of every verb and use flawless grammar. I want to always know the exact words to express my sentiments and never need to substitute one that only half means what I want to say. I want to wax poetic about the weather with the checkout lady at Exito, delve into human rights with taxi drivers, and debate politics with the fruit vendor down the street.

So, I’m not there yet, but a girl can dream. And in this case, I truly believe that I can make this dream a reality. Maybe I only just learned the past tense, get lost if a conversation takes an unexpected direction, and fall over even the words and phrases that I do know when put on the spot, but I’ll get there. I’ve only been here for two months and really learning Spanish for one. And I’m making progress with the help of my teacher, Ruben, and his infinite patience with my long pauses and probing language questions; Miles and his tolerance of my adding basic Spanish queries to the barrage of questions he is faced with and explanations he has to give at the hostel everyday; and my dearest friend Collins, Spanish Dictionary extraordinaire. It’s only a matter of time . . .

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