I love celebrations. Birthdays, anniversaries, even manufactured holidays (National Blueberry Day, anyone?) are all delights to my heart. I enjoy these so much that…
- They don’t even have to be mine for me to want to participate and
- I will happily make up a reason to celebrate if a little boost of joy is needed.
Recently, I marked the anniversary of my first full year of learning Spanish. Just a quick recap if you are new around here, I have always wanted to learn Spanish. Not “some Spanish,” or “travel Spanish,” but “no fooling around, fluent kind of Spanish.” Last year, while waiting for a takeaway order at a Mexican restaurant, I heard people speaking, had about 15 minutes to pass, and thought the time was right. I hopped on the Duolingo app, then eventually took some Community Education classes and well, here we are.
Full disclosure, since the app I use keeps count for me of my learning streak, I had been anticipating this event for the last three months.
The day came and while there was no fiesta (which now seems like a bit of a missed opportunity) it did give me a chance to consider what I have learned over the past year. So, with no further fanfare (unless you want to have some, which I think you know I would be totally okay with) I give you the big takeaways from what I have affectionally dubbed “Spanish 365.”
- Learning anything new will cause one to feel both incompetent and lost A LOT. I mean, literally, people are talking, and you have zero idea what they are saying. It’s very humbling.
- I have learned both faster and slower than I expected. Learning is rarely linear, there’s a whole lot of one step forward, three steps backward kind of moments. Again, very humbling and kind of annoying.
- I often know more than I realize, but it’s usually only after the interaction that I figure out how I could have been more successful. Example: I was trying to ask for ice (hielo), but instead asked for ice cream (helado). Let’s be honest, I would have been okay with either, but as I walked away from the interaction, I realized that I actually knew at least THREE other ways to ask for what I needed, none of which came to mind in the moment. Charades finally proved successful, so I got my needs met in the end, while mightily confusing several very nice ladies. So humbling and pretty disappointing.
- Learning is hard work and therefore it has been quite mentally and physically tiring. There were nights after my classes that I would have described my brain as being “broken.” As someone who is a bit of a perfectionist (such a nice way to say that and an incredible understatement) I felt like I was the only one who didn’t know what was going on, but I was TRYING SO HARD. Humbling and exhausting.
- One of the most important facets of learning anything is having opportunities to practice. I need every opportunity I can possibly get, and I need people who will be patient as I fumble, stumble, and ask questions. Also, one has to be ready when the opportunity arises, but while communication is often spontaeous, my brain needs time to catch up and get onboard. Humbling with a time delay.
- With this pursuit of practice, inevitably comes adjusting feedback. Because in these moments there is an unspoken contract that someone who takes time to engage will also provide correction. This means people making suggestions about word choice, adjusting my pronunciation, or providing other little tweaks. Humbling, but with a side of connection.
Since we are being honest here, you might be thinking that 365 days of humbling moments maybe haven’t been worth having a fiesta, but in all actuality, I have genuinely loved (almost) every single minute of it.
You see, 365 days of Spanish has grown my heart so much. People have been willing to help me – they have slowed down, allowed me to participate in their culture, answered questions, and received me with great kindness. I can honestly say because of this, I have more compassion for others who are having a hard time understanding, whether the issue is a language barrier or something else.
But probably the biggest takeaway, is that I have found a great passion. You see, I continue to make the choice to keep opening the app, attending the classes, practicing in the workbook. Because while it is certainly humbling to learn something, love for the subject keeps me coming back, again and again.
So, what’s next? Are we on track for a second year of learning?
And to this, I am pleased to report a most definite “Si, si!!!” As a matter of fact, as I type this, we are on day 382 and I plan to begin taking credit bearing classes (in pursuit of a degree in Spanish) this fall. Also, while my listening comprehension is currently the weakest of my abilities, my reading comprehension is coming along nicely. I can usually read the descriptions in Spanish on Neflix (which I am embarrassingly proud of).
Devoting yourself to learning is always worth it. It expands your world, your mind, and your heart. Whatever you are learning, celebrate where you are in the journey, where you have been, and where you are going. And listen, if you decide you want to have a little fiesta, feel free to put me in charge of the ice AND the ice cream. I know how to ask for both.