Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lost in Translation

As we approach the completion of our first year here in Barcelona, I've been thinking of what has been my biggest challenge in the last 11 months.  Many things come to mind, however, I have to say that the language has been my biggest obstacle.  When I look back at past blog entries I find that it is a reoccuring theme and with good reason. 

And still, 11 months into our 3 1/2 years here I am still struggling though not nearly like I was when we first arrived.  I can communicate the majority of my needs - some with words, some with pantomime, some with my iphone translator.  But regardless, the point gets across.  However, that doesn't mean that my inability to communicate "well" doesn't frustrate me, because it does.  Josh and I have differing opinions on this - he believes that as long as I can get my point across then I've accomplished something, but I'm of the belief that not only do I need to be able to say the things I want to say, I need to say them well. 

I know that I have no one to blame but myself on my lack of knowledge.  I told myself when Liam started school in September that I would have more free time to focus on studying and would commit a minimum of 1-2 hours a day studying.  Honestly, it lasted one day.  Because while I have difficulty, I'm also in a comfort zone these days.  I run my errands, I meet up with friends and I work.  So now I need to schedule it in.

Because as much as there are days when I say I'm getting along just fine, there are other days where I remember the fact that the language stil finds ways to intimidate me.  The good thing is, it no longer terrifies me.  There was a point where I was literally afraid and almost to the point of hyperventilating, if I needed to ask a question or approach someone about something.  While I'm no longer scared to do this, it doesn't mean I don't dread having to do it because I've got to put my Spanish cap on and quite honestly it can be exhausting at times. 

The guy at the DeliShop - my American store, always tries to have a conversation with me and it frustrates me not to be able to say much back to him though I always manage bits and pieces but not all that I want to say and there are times I just avoid going there in order to not have to speak to him.  This makes me sad because despite the fact that I don't speak Castellano fluently, this guy always makes an effort which is so kind.

What also makes me sad is that I have let the language prevent me from doing things the kids and I enjoy because I just don't want to have to deal with again, the effort of having to think thru every single word and trying to get my point across.  For example, sports.  When at home in the States, Aidan played 3 sports the fall before we left.  Three.  Here he plays none.  Now given this is in part because his school day is longer - he doesn't even get off the bus til 4:55 each afternoon.  However, it is also because for once I'm letting what he says designate what I do.  He LOVES tennis and took lessons for more than 2 years at home.  Here we play on a fairly regular basis however when I asked him if he wanted to take lessons here, he said no.  Now there are two paths here - the first would be to let him decide, he is 6 after all.  The second path is to sign him up because I know who he is and I know that once he starts he'll fall in love all over again (and no, I'm not that kind of a pushy sport parent).  But because I'm letting the language get in the way, I'm going the first route which I actually consider lazy on my part.  And ok, it was nice that tennis was a 10 minute drive for me at home and here it takes a good 45 mins to an hour to get there PLUS the hour it takes me to get to school.  But let's be honest it's the language that I'm letting get in my way of actually signing him up because I need to communicate various pieces of information to the tennis club and I also need them to give me information that I need to comprehend.

However, on the flip side, I'm making progress - poco a poco as they say here (little by little).  When I went to order my turkey for our belated Thanksgiving (we'll celebrate Sunday) I realized how far I have come because I didn't let fear lead the way but at the same time, my sense of accomplishment in my mind was more than it should have been after just about a year.  This is something, again, in my mind, that I should have been able to do months ago without fear of vomiting before I ask a question.  As I've told Aidan when he is afraid to raise his hand in school, what's the worst that can happen if I get the answer wrong?  Maybe I'm just expecting too much of myself.  I should take a lesson from myself I guess - no one is going to beat me up if I don't say something just right. 

And I still have my daily intercambio with Jose - and our conversations have come a very long way.  He's been trying to teach me Spanish sayings (none of which I remember unfortunately but I'm trying) and we talk about things above and beyond where are you from, how old are you, etc etc.  We talk about the weather (there are a lot of descriptive words to describe weather so no judging me on this), about people that walk by us on a regular basis, about the holidays, about what we did over the weekend (just learned that this is called fin de semana which totally makes sense now that I know it), what we are doing for the holidays and so much more. 

So while I know that it is early to be making New Years resolutions, I have one already that I'm hoping I can keep - get on the ball with my Rosetta Stone.  I know I've learned from it - I apply things I've learned every day from it.  I just need to get back into learning mode.  By the time 3 1/2 years is up I may not be fluent but I damn well better be able to have a conversation!!!


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