Retirement Blog: Habla Español

December 27, 2011 by:
Retirement Blog:  Habla Español

Let me begin by stating that I took two years of high school Spanish. It was a long long time ago.  Spanish was not my best subject.  I passed just enough to complete the college entry requirement.   I definitely wasn’t conversational.

My memory of most words vanished years ago.  Worst, I listen slow so when anyone speaks fast, I only pick up a few words.   This has meant, I have little ability to communicate in Spanish speaking country.  Frustrating indeed for an extrovert who craves talking with everyone she meets.  I need at a minimum enough Spanish speaking ability to go beyond text book greetings and simple phrases.

Sandra Kelly

My son, Evan, had taken language immersion in Guatemala several years ago.  He learned a enough of the language to launch his Latin America adventures.

Perhaps, a Spanish school would work for me.  I would emerge myself in Spanish in Boquete.    Evan had arranged for his friend Itzy who is a teacher to tutor me.  I would take lessons four hours per day – two in the morning and two in the afternoon – for a week.  Admittedly not nearly enough time, but hopefully it would create momentum.

Itzy began by asking me to write a list of what I wanted to be able to say.  This was a much more practical approach than learning from a book organized into sections of contrived conversations.  We were also able to skip over things I already knew – granted not a lot to skip.  The process continued when the lesson was dedicated to verbs.  I picked the verbs that I would most use.  Learning became so much more relevant!  Even more amazing, was that I actually began to understand when Itzy spoke to me in Spanish.

The real thrill of this came at the end of the week.  While in Boquete, I stayed at a private residence.  My hostess spoke only limited English.  Our conversations for most of week were pleasantries.  At the end of week, we had a long conversation.  We discovered commonalities of social work, backgrounds of case loads, and much more.  There were, of course, words spoken by each of us that the other could not understand.  The more important thing was it was a real conversation!  More than enough motivation for me to keep learning.

Back in Casco, there is a conspiracy to keep me practicing Spanish.  My driver Blas each day insists that I learn a new word.  I attempt to tell him in Spanish that at one word a day, I will speak Spanish when I am a 100.  Evidently I did not quite say this because he understood that it will take me  100 years to learn Spanish.  It was close enough for it to become our joke.

I am getting better but need to keep taking lessons and practicing. If I pick up the pace with two words a day, well, I should be fluent well before a cententinal birthday.


Sandra Kelly 25 post in this blog.

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