With my English group broken up and everyone going different directions, Vanessa to a little town to the East of Taxco, Sarah and Lili to a little town in a westerly direction, I have been immersed in Spanish “en todo.”
I don’t care what the language courses say about learning a language the way children do — by hearing it spoken; it does not work well for me that way. (Aren’t there studies that show that a child’s gift for learning language via the spoken word tends to disappear about age 5 when they begin to learn to read? ) I need to see the words, not just hear them.
For me, learning a language is very difficult when there is no one to give me an explanation of the word, even something as simple as “This is that.” You can use visual clues for animate objects (table, chair, door, etc.) but what about things you can’t touch (feelings or ideas)? How do you explain or understand the rules of the language (“I…” verbs end in o, or the difference between feminine and masculine articles – an important concept in Spanish that makes no sense to an American who only uses a, an, or the.)
Adult language is filled with concepts and ideas, the untouchables of the world, and it can be very frustrating not being able to truly communicate. Do you think this is why 2-year-olds tend to throw temper tantrums? I remember talking with Ezrah about that age, and having trouble understanding her pronunciation. She just kept saying the same thing louder and louder. Finally I said, “Saying it louder does not help me to understand, try saying it slower.” She did and I understood, and her frustration melted away.
I am learning more each day. Everyone tells me I know “much Spanish” and congratulates me. But what I know is words; what I do not know, at least not yet, is how to put them together to truly communicate. I am like a 3-year-old, “I want this” or “I go there.” Or, I ask one word questions. Sometimes I manage to make myself understood, like when I asked for two sided copies at the copy shop, but any pride I might feel that I made myself understood disappears in a cloud of disappointment (and yes, frustration) when the next encounter I am not understood at all.
Perhaps I am doing OK speaking my “baby talk” however listening and understanding is another thing altogether. I might get the gist of the conversation or it might just be a tangle of words, speeding by like a freight train, with no comprehension on my part. My brain hurts so I have decided I need a little English break. I am making plans to visit several different towns (Cuernavaca, San Miguel de Allende, and Puebla) in the next few weeks where, in each, I will enjoy not only a change of scenery but also an oasis of English speaking hosts that will benefit me spiritually as well as emotionally and intellectually.
Stay tuned for the travelogue. Then it will be back to Spanish for the duration. Working on my power verbs!