Spanish 730

with No Comments

Earlier this week, I celebrated my two-year anniversary (day 730) learning Spanish. The app I use not only marks the date for me, but they also sent a little summary of a few of the accomplishments of my time learning. The most noteworthy ones? Apparently, I have studied over 2,000 words in the past year alone and reviewed over 25,000 phrases since I started using the app. In the spirit of reflection, I thought I would revisit the lessons from my first year (as noted in the Spanish 365 blog) to see if they still felt relevant and if there was anything I wanted to add.

I will paraphrase each of the lessons and then add notes on current thoughts.

  1. Learning anything new will cause you to feel both incompetent and lost A LOT. This is definitely true, but I am pleased to report that at some point, you begin to feel a little less incompetent and a lot less lost. It’s very exciting when it happens, and that’s when you realize you are finally making progress.
  2. You will learn both faster and slower than you expect. One of my favorite things about being in school with other students is noticing what each person is good at. Some seem to be particularly quick with conjugating verbs, while others are excellent with grammar rules. It’s fascinating to notice the concepts that myself and others “get” easily and the ones that seem much more tenuous.
  3. You likely know more than you realize, but it’s oftentimes only after the interaction that you understand how you could have been successful. This one remains much more true than I would like, for sure! I often think later about what I could have improved in an interaction and the information immediately comes to mind. “Future Jill” is much smoother than “Past Jill” but now that I think of it, this probably isn’t limited to language, so we will leave that there… : )
  4. Learning is hard work and therefore it will be quite mentally and physically tiring. In addition to finishing the two-year mark in my app, I just completed my third term in school. I have now taken Spanish 101, 102, and 103. While I enjoyed it to no end, I am beyond grateful to have the summer break. I think about Spanish a lot. I mean, a lot, way more than I would have ever imagined. I turn things over in my mind, I dream about concepts that are harder to grasp, I conjugate verbs and review vocabulary. Honestly, it’s never far from my thoughts. Spanish and I aren’t in a casual relationship, we are pretty committed, and I love her deeply, although she vexes me regularly and continually wears me out.
  5. One of the most important facets of learning anything is having opportunities to practice. Improvement in a foreign language really does hinge on practice. So much so, that in school, we are encouraged to pair a conversation class with our other Spanish class. The entire purpose of the class is for practice; we come right in and get busy asking each other questions and forming responses, based on prompts La Professora provides. I also get giddy (and tend to embarrass my loved ones) when I get a chance to practice out in the real world. Seriously, if someone shows even the slightest bit of willingness (or they simply don’t run away from me) I will launch right into a conversation because there really is no substitute for practice.
  6. With this pursuit of practice, inevitably comes adjusting feedback. With risk comes reward and this is the big payoff of practicing my skills. When someone understands me or they give me the tweak I need to be more successful, it’s so heartening and urges me on.

There are two additional lessons I want to add from this year:

  1. Communication, in any language, is hard. There are so many things that can go wrong – word choice, delivery, timing, you name it, that it really shouldn’t surprise us when it doesn’t work the way we plan. Honestly, we should probably be a lot more grateful when it actually goes well and a lot less disappointed when we have to clean up a miscommunication.
  2. There has to be something bigger than yourself that urges you on toward a goal when things get hard. It’s way too easy to give up, if there isn’t something compelling and pushing you forward. It’s probably best that I didn’t realize how hard homework would be at this point in my life and there were many days that I wondered what I had gotten myself into. But what kept (and keeps) me going is love for the language, love for learning, and desire to do it well.

While I am excited to think about the past two years, I realize there is much, much more to do. I genuinely look forward to the day where comprehending and speaking Spanish feels automatic, natural, and easy. Maybe that’s day 1,095?

Stay tuned ¡mis amigos!