Well, today I did it! I went to the downtown Y, wrote the placement test, and enrolled in a Spanish course. Classes begin a month from tomorrow.
The only thing in French or English on the placement test was the basic instructions: “Don’t guess. Simply stop the test when you find it too hard.” Everything else was in Spanish. The frustrating part was that I understood at least three-quarters of what I was reading, including how context dictated that I had to fill the blank with the past, present or future of the verb given in the infinitive. But the drill on numbers Esposo did with me while I was in Mexico paid off.
The Spanish instructor I met after writing the test immediately determined I wasn’t a neophyte of Spanish — or as someone might say, I’ve long ago popped my cherry as far as Spanish goes. But I explained to her my problem: as soon as someone speaks to me in Spanish, I seize up and my (very limited) vocabularly and ability to conjugate in the present tense simply vanish. She responded by asking me to conjugate the verb ser, which I did correctly after a slow start — my brain must be equipped with extremely limited RAM — pausing at the second person plural.
— Do you teach Spanish as spoken in Spain or in Latin America?” I asked her.
— Oh, Spain!” she said.
— In that case, I don’t remember what goes with ‘vosotros’ because I’ve more recently been re-taught, rather adamantly, to say ‘ustedes son‘.”
— She smiled. “Muy bien, Mauricio. We keep in mind the differences in our courses.”
I also confided how I took a year of Spanish at university more than 20 years ago but, to my chagrin, really didn’t pay as much attention as I should have. “Back then, I never thought I would marry a Mexican.” To which she simply said, again with a smile, “But then, life happened…”
So, she enrolled me in the “doble” Levels 1 & 2 on Monday and Wednesday evenings, which means that if I don’t go mad by the end of October after a period of three hours of Spanish instruction after a full day’s work twice weekly, I could complete Levels 3 & 4 by Christmas. Level 4 is described in the Y’s website as follows.
Again, we begin with a review of [the first three levels]: direct and indirect objects; the verbs ser, estar, haber and tener in the present indicative and present perfect. You finish learning the imperative, and learn new prepositions of place and time as well as adjectives and indefinite pronouns. Vocabulary about health and consulting a medical professional are also studied. Now is the time to tackle the immediate future, preterite and preterite imperfect so you can describe events in the past, present and future. Comparative adjectives are also examined. Your vocabulary grows, enabling you to accurately and effectively express your feelings and emotions.
The claim is that, after Level 1, “you can introduce yourself, talk about someone, describe a city or your home, and ask and answer questions.” After Level 2, “you are able to carry on a conversation in a restaurant, gym or shop, and to talk about geography using vocabulary about the family, sports, animals, time, purchases and vacations, and numbers up to 1,000.” And after Level 3, “your study of the imperative will enable you to give instructions, advice and permission, and to advise against, ask for information and make invitations … and you will be able to organize meetings and talk about your daily activities.”
I’m a little bit nervous about how the Spanish taught is more that of Spain, but there’s a glimmer of hope. She took care to call me Ma-u-ri-si-o, not Ma-u-ri-thi-o like my now-retired Spanish teacher from 20+ years ago. And really, better to take a structured course after which Esposo can clean up than not taking a course at all.