April 1, 2010 | Spanish

Spanish Status Report: Day 1

I love Spanish.

I would like to say that the first day of Spanish was one of unadulterated pleasure, but I think my brain is in shock over the sudden switch from Korean.

It was fun, but it is quite a difference.

Spanish Is Everywhere in New York

Any differences should work in my favor, of course. First of all, Spanish is way easier than Korean. Second, I studied Spanish from seventh through eleventh grade, also did a little work in it in college and graduate school, and have over the years occasionally made meaningful efforts to brush up. Although my college degree is in German studies, and although I apparently spoke German when I was very little, before I left Germany at the age of four, my Spanish remains far better than my German. I speak at least a little Spanish most days in New York, and it is the language I know best after English.

There is a family connection to Spanish as well. My father speaks it natively. His parents, who were originally from Brooklyn, moved to Argentina for work-related reasons, and he spent his childhood first in Buenos Aires and then in Mexico. A number of other relatives on my father’s side speak Spanish natively, too. My mother, while not a native speaker, is fluent and used Spanish constantly in her work in elementary school education in California. So although I have never been immersed in it—my bilingual relatives spoke English with me—I feel very close to Spanish.

All this previous exposure is why Spanish is getting just one month in this program. A single month for me to relearn as much as I can of what I used to know!

My plan is to talk to people around New York City. A lot. It takes about two seconds to find Spanish speakers here. For example, I walked through Central Park on an errand this afternoon and heard Spanish-speaking tourists as soon as I entered the park at 77th Street. I decided not to bother them, but then, just five minutes later, I ran into my friend Octavio Vazquez, who is a composer, and two friends of his who were visiting from Barcelona, and I practiced on them instead.

Spanish Advertising in the Bronx

Other plans: I am going to do the 40 most advanced lessons Pimsleur offers (skipping the first 60 lessons); do a ton of grammar review, just as I did with Italian; and also practice with my VocabuLearn vocabulary CDs, as usual. And, for the first time, I am going to try out Rosetta Stone, which is en route to me as I write this.

Before today, I had been thinking about how to test my progress in Spanish over the month, but I really didn’t feel like paying for and taking two separate sets of tests in just 30 days, so late this afternoon I decided I would write my own entrance exam. The exam was this: to write in Spanish for 10 minutes on whatever topic came into my head, without benefit of a dictionary or assistance of any kind.

Now, I find this painful, because I am not big on knowingly making mistakes in public, but here is my entrance exam, written between 5:57 and 6:07 tonight (after a few hours of review, which did in fact benefit me, so in that sense it is not a perfect sample of my pre-studying Spanish):

Mi español no es horrible, pero podría ser mucho mejor. La mayoría del tiempo, las personas con quienes hablo en español pueden comprenderme. Pero hago muchos errores, y también estoy mas confundida ahora que normalmente, porque el italiano es muy similar al espanol, y a veces uso palabras italianas cuando estoy tratando de hablar en español. Un otro problema: mi vocabulario no es muy grande, y es difícil decir todo que quiero decir. Tengo que simplificar mis ideas, y no me gusta hacer eso. Despues de trenta días de estudiar, creo que podré decir casi todo que quiero decir, y con menos errores. Espero que sí!

If you don’t read Spanish, you are probably better off, because that was a pretty boring paragraph. (It describes my main weaknesses in Spanish and concludes with the hope that I will be able to do better after a month of studying.) I should have thought of a more interesting topic before I began writing, so my apologies to anyone who can read Spanish.

The measure of my progress over the next month can be how mortified I am when I reread that paragraph on April 30.

Comments (6)

Jill • Posted on Fri, April 02, 2010 - 6:17 pm EST

Hola!  Did you get my message that I enjoyed seeing you on channel 1 news!
That was a huge surprise!  I hope you enjoyed so glorious a day as today.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, April 02, 2010 - 7:47 pm EST

Yes, I got your message - thank you! And yes, what a day!

tomas • Posted on Sun, April 04, 2010 - 1:16 pm EST

muy bien hecho! solamente un pequeño error!

tomas • Posted on Sun, April 04, 2010 - 5:18 pm EST

The problem with Diana’s salon is that it is not Spanish:

acrilicos -> acrílicos
disenos -> diseños

Joe • Posted on Thu, May 22, 2014 - 11:46 am EST

Hi! I enjoyed reading this article. As long as you are motivated to learn Spanish and trying to learn as much you can that is all that matters. The language is sort of like a second language in this country and a world language.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, May 22, 2014 - 12:00 pm EST

Thanks, Joe! :)

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