Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spanish 101

I always thought I'd enjoy going back to school when it was on my own volition rather than as a mandatory thing.  Maybe it's just because the subject matter is one that I need to cover rather than want to learn.  Actually I can't 100% say that because I do want to learn Spanish.  I guess I'd just like it to happen through osmosis or something.  Anyways, I took Spanish classes for about a year here.  Yes, I learned from them but not nearly at the pace that I think I could have learned had I done one on one classes.

In the past I've felt good about taking classes.  Taking classes meant that I was being proactive about my learning the language and integrating into society here in Spain.  I had friends that weren't being so proactive and while that is certainly up to them, it made me feel good to know that I was putting in the effort...a least sort of.  And by sort of I mean that the classes weren't a huge challenge for me.

The classes that I took started with the beginner book which despite my figuring I was past that, I took anyways, afterall, I wasn't 100% sure that I knew everything (or most of) the book until I actually took it.  But because I was in a class, I couldn't progress past those parts that I did know on to something that I didn't know until the class was at that stage.  And so the class didn't hold much interest for me quite often and it didn't challenge me as much as it could have.  In the second book there was certainly more challenges than the first but again, I had enough prior knowledge that I could have moved at a faster pace.  By the start of book 3, I decided to take a hiatus.

And while I had planned to go back to class this fall, I figured focusing on my Spanish drivers license was enough Spanish for the moment (despite the written portion and classes being in English - it was just enough "Spain" at a time) and that I would use my Rossetta Stone in the interim.  Though in a way I knew this was a bit half assed and I wasn't proud of it.  And as a matter of fact, a bit frustrated too because I wasn't sure how I was going to go about improving (which I did want to do) my Spanish but doing it on my own terms.

So I've decided to try a different route - the personal tutor.  Several people in the last few weeks have said how much they have learned a new language either formally or informally just by having more one on one conversations, not just quick intercambios.  And the more I talk to them, the more I realized that this is what I need to do.  So on a recommendation of a friend who was working with a tutor, I hired Scelene.

I met with Scelene last week and I immediately felt connected with her in the sense that she was the no nonsense type and immediately pushed me to start speaking in Spanish.  She asked me why I wanted a tutor and what I had hoped to get out of working with her and requested that I do this all in Spanish.

In the end we had about a 40 min conversation that flew by, all in Spanish and while I didn't get every single word she said, she enunciated her words clearly, spoke at a normal pace and made sure I understood before going on. The result is that we will ONLY speak in Spanish together because she said my comprehension skills are good enough to warrant it (I'll admit, that felt good). We will cover new grammar items for 10-15 mins each session, review homework (yes homework) and then have conversation where we can apply all my new knowledge and apply it to real life rather than fake situations that you would normally have in a book.  So it will be part grammar and part intercambio which are both what I need to progress.

I had my first class with her today.  I could have sworn we only spent 30 minutes talking together, it just went by that quickly.  I can honestly say that I don't remember the last time I took a class of any sort where the time went by quickly.  We covered some things that I knew and a bunch that I didn't but related back to the stuff that I did (does that make sense?).  She drew a chart that put it all together and while the chart was in Spanish, it all became so much clearer.  Why, oh why, don't they do this in Spanish class?  I learned more today, in an hour, than I had in months.  It felt good, really really good.  I can now say that I know the 4 past tenses and while 2 of them were completely new to me and I certainly will have to practice using them, I get it... I undertand.  And that was huge.  Because she explained everything to me in Spanish and yet, I got it.

My next class is on Thursday and I've already got homework - use those 4 tenses in an autobiography 150 words or more.  A challenge in the sense that I have to figure out how to write it using 4 different past tenses so more a matter of how do I word the sentences in order to apply this information.  But I'm looking forward to Thursday and learning some more.... finally... it's about time :)


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