The Spanish Challenge

7 Feb

Last year, before I went to Guatemala, I thought I could speak Spanish. Then we landed and it turned out that the only thing I could really say was “Hola”. Apparently the hours of staring at conjugation lists and learning how vocabulary related to buying and selling a house (something I did SO much of in Guatemala) didn’t really prepare me to actually TALK in Spanish. The trip was still wonderful but I always felt frustrated with my lack of ability to understand what the kids were saying and I’m sure that I could have had much more meaningful interactions with some of the girls had I actually been able to converse with them.

When I left Guatemala, I was determined to improve my Spanish skills and be able to talk before I returned. I kept up with this for a few months, making flashcards and buying workbooks and attempting to converse with my Guatemalan friends. Then school started back up and life got crazy. I thought, Oh I don’t need to work on these things, I’ll be in Spanish 3 so obviously I will improve.

Yet we’re 45 days away from my return to Guatemala and my Spanish skills are no better than last year. I may be in Spanish 3 but I’m not learning a thing. I can write basic sentences but ask me to speak Spanish and I freeze. The verb conjugation charts and vocabulary about fairytales are not helping me. I guarantee that when I’m trying to talk to high school students in Guatemala that they’re not going to ask me to make up a story based on some pictures. While I understand that we learn the vocabulary to help us understand the usage of each verb tense, it’s just not helping me reach my goal.

I don’t need to understand every verb tense under the sun or know 10,000 different words. I just want to be able to have simple conversations with my friends in Guatemala.

So I’ve set myself a goal, one that I’m hoping anyone reading this blog will hold me to. I want to improve my Spanish enough to hold basic conversations while I am in Guatemala. I have 45 days and if this guy can become totally fluent in 3 months, I can reach this goal in 45 days.

I’m formulating a plan on how to reach this goal, which I’ll write a blog post about soon.

In the meantime, do you have any advice for trying to learn a language when you cannot properly immerse yourself into the country and culture?

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2 Responses to “The Spanish Challenge”

  1. Lisa @chickybus February 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Can you make friends with someone Latino who lives near you and do an “intercambio”? You speak Spanish for an hour with them and then they speak English with you for an hour. During this time, you practice simple things and let them correct you and keep notes.

    I also recommend using YouTube. That helped me learn some Arabic before I visited the Middle East.

    Buena suerte!

    • Sky February 29, 2012 at 12:01 am #

      That’s a great idea, to practice with someone here. Unfortunately, I live in a really rural, really white area, so it’s nearly impossible to find anyone here. I will definitely check out some Youtube videos, though! Thanks for the suggestion!

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