Am I Getting Anywhere With My Spanish?

2020-01-30 – I’ve been studying Spanish for about six months, and I’m wondering if I’m getting anywhere.

The effort has multiple components. Kit and I have a tutor we meet with every Friday (we had a month’s break, though, which ends tomorrow). We both use the Duolingo app, which bombards you with endless questions that you must answer based on your growing Spanish language knowledge. Duolingo also has some nice bilingual podcasts we listen to. And we watch a Netflix series in Spanish. I also follow a number of Spanish newspapers on Facebook and read the stories as they appear in my feed—or try to. The latest thing is listening to a Spanish radio station while driving.

With all this effort, I’d like to think that I’m getting somewhere. And I think I am, but there are huge gaps.

One of the reasons I began doing this was to begin to break down the language barrier that exists between me and my immigration clients. At the moment I need an interpreter understand the clients and they need the interpreter to understand me. This works, of course. But the process is much slower than if I could communicate with my clients directly.

This is not going to change anytime soon. I figure that it will be a couple of years at least before I start feeling comfortable and probably longer than that before I could work without an interpreter.

My plan for today’s post was to get a news article in Spanish and mark it up to show which words I understood and which I did not. I figured that the markup would look like Swiss cheese—with lots of holes!

And that’s what it looks like. But I began to realize that, in spite of the many, many holes, the main gist of the story was getting through. Strangely, it’s possible to miss most of the words and still understand the message as a whole!

I still wouldn’t bet my life on it. Tuesday one of my clients told me something about being a grandmother. Either she is a grandmother or is expecting to become a grandmother. I don’t know which. And I certainly couldn’t nail down her story with enough precision to put it in a legal document. But I got the main idea.

And yesterday, while driving to the auto mechanic, I listened to Spanish speaking jocks run a kind of dating game with callers and debate body shaming (full disclosure: they used the English phrase, which helped me understand the Spanish parts). And I totally understood the Spanish-language Bloomberg-for-president commercial.

So it’s going to be shaky for quite a while still. And understanding the incoming doesn’t mean that I yet have the ability to respond other than to say “si” or “no,” “muy bien,” or “y tu.”

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