I just finished watching the Swedish version of My Life as a Dog with Spanish subtitles and actually followed fairly well. Esposo, as you can imagine, has been doing a shitload of translation for me since I’ve been here, but figuring I could follow the plot without translation, I urged him not to bother. Granted, the plot of this chestnut of a film is hardly a complicated psychological thriller, but I’m rather pleased with myself to have managed.
A moment like this brings a few thoughts to my mind. First, I am SO looking forward to beginning formal Spanish classes in September, as clearly there is hope for me. Second, a week of attempting to read signs, TV ads, and explications in museums, combined with the lessons Esposo has given me over the months we’ve been together, is paying off, albeit perhaps more slowly than he (and I) would wish.
A part of me is still deathly worried that I will be like my dear mother, who tried and tried and tried for years to learn English but never managed. But now I’m starting to banish that thought. A few notions are gelling, such as:
— Jovana’s American roommate has been living in the City since October and can carry a conversation in Spanish quite well. She claims that she still feels “like an idiot” when speaking Spanish because her knowledge of structure and vocabulary is still pretty basic, which is a burden for someone who earns her living as a writer in her native tongue. But she not only perseveres; she also has a genuine curiosity for “cool words” in the language.
— While visiting Montréal late last month, Hiker made the excellent suggestion that I set aside my obsession with grammar and simply spit out words and rudimentary sentences, even if that means leaving the verb in the infinitive to start. In other words, acquire vocabulary and use it as much as possible.
— I need to suck up my perfectionist ways and realize that it’s far better to feel and sound like an idiot speaking Spanish badly than being (or seeming to be) one of those who doesn’t even want to try to learn the language. Besides, it’s only with practice that it will get better.
— Closely related to that last point, I hate standing out like a sore thumb. I hate having Esposo’s friends who know some English switching to that language just for me. It’s not right. It reminds me too much of how, while growing up in Moncton, a group of francophones would switch to English for the sake of ONE anglophone — no offence intended to my unilingual anglophone friends. Except that, in my mind, forcing this switch on Mexicans in MEXICO is far more egregious.
I know building the confidence to hold simple conversations in Spanish won’t happen overnight, let alone fully following spirited conversations by those for whom Spanish is their mother tongue. But I want it badly. Not just so that I can stop feeling like just another damn gringo in Mexico. But for Esposo especially.
Wish me good luck. Or should I say, buena suerte.