Tag Archives: spanish challenge

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?