Friday, December 16, 2016

Learning Spanish

I've started learning Spanish again, using online lessons from Duolingo, supplemented by word-of-the-day emails and grammar essays from SpanishDict, and general attempts to read and understand things around me.

I've wanted to learn Spanish for a long time, mostly out of a sense of "this is something I should do" as the U.S. becomes more bilingual - especially after moving to our neighborhood, it just seems the neighborly thing to do, at least if we really want to be part of it. But now that I've started studying it more consistently, and am seeking out material that I can "read"*, I am falling in love with it on its own.

Previous attempts to learn on my own didn't last, but the online classes make a huge difference. I'm forced to write and to listen, and there are all the little behavioral tricks that feel kind of stupid but really do work - collecting points, maintaining daily streaks, moving up levels. Their algorithms note when I've made mistakes and give those words to me again. And because it's just me and a computer I don't mind making mistakes so I just plunge onward. I'd be a bit bored if this were it but that's why I'm supplementing with my own reading and music.

I had a moment the other day that confirmed how I've been doing this. I've been reading books (fiction) by immigrants or the children of immigrants**, stuff written in English but with Spanish words and phrases as well. Nothing you can't get from context or that's essential or that isn't explained in some way, so it's not necessary to understand it. But still, it would be nice to. And there was a sentence in Spanish that I just... understood. There was no cognitive shift of, oh, this is in Spanish so now I'm translating. No, I just read it. And then I realized what had happened and that was so cool.

My goals have now changed around my learning, now I really want to be able to read literature in Spanish, rather than just have grocery store conversation.

And for those of you wondering how am I managing to fit yet another thing in to my day - 1) I study on my lunch break or on the train, and 2) you may have noticed that I'm not on Facebook much anymore.

¡Hasta la vista!

* I've found bilingual editions of various poets, most awesomely a volume of 20th-century Latin American poetry which gives a really broad range of voices and themes. Children's books are good too, particularly those I already know in English. And I went ahead and got myself a bilingual Bible. Seeking out stuff I would want to read anyway.

** For example: Sandra Cisneros, Junot Díaz, Cristina Henríquez, Esmeralda Santiago. I'm open to suggestions!

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