When people in the states would ask me if I was fluent in Spanish, even though they thought I was being modest or shy, I wasn’t. The truth is, I don’t know how to answer that question. So I wanted to address this issue, talk about the struggles of speaking another language, and be honest that I will never be as good as a native. So here it is:
- Sometimes I feel like QUEEN B herself
Beyonce moments are difficult to come by, but when they happen you have to carpe diem. I am not going to lie and try to be modest…sometimes I can speak Spanish perfectly. When I say that though, I mean my grammar is perfectly correct for a sentence or two. News flash, no one speaks perfect. But there are some moments when I am speaking to a colleague or a Spanish friend and I know they understand me because I am speaking correctly, not because they simply understand broken Spanish. It’s in these moments where I feel like I can take on the world. It’s as if all those thousands of dollars that were thrown into my education are going to great use! I learned something! I am not going to say this is an “every moment I speak Spanish” occurrence, but it happens semi-regularly (varying degrees of Beyonce fab). Thankfully, I am taking a Spanish class that is supporting the cause. #BeBFab
- WTF is Fluency?
When people ask me if I am fluent and I give them a blank stare back, they typically follow up with “well you lived in Spain!” or “you’re moving to Spain!” but the truth is the word fluent is hard to define. What makes someone fluent? I remember struggling with this idea in my education courses when discussing how to improve students’ fluency in reading. How do you measure it? So to answer the question, I typically say, “I can get by.” Which is true! I live in Spain. I speak Spanish everyday. But with that, there are varying degrees of the amount. I am an English teacher; at least 30 hours of my week are dedicated to speaking in English. I cannot speak Spanish 24/7. I can converse easily in Spanish, but sometimes I spend three minutes trying to explain something that should have taken me two seconds but since I didn’t know the word, I talked longer. No pasa nada, I like to talk.
- Wait do I speak Spanish?
When I was growing up I wanted to be a basketball player. I was pretty good, but there were days when I just wasn’t. If you ask my mom she will always say “I knew if your head was in the game the moment you stepped foot on that court.” The truth is I don’t know what made me have a good game or not, I would prepare and train with the same determination every week, but sometimes, I wasn’t in it. The same phenomenon happens to me with Spanish. There are some days where I wake up and I understand when my Spanish roommate speaks in her rapid Spanish tempo, but there are others where I wonder if I ever learned Spanish at all. It happens. But to be honest, this happens to me in English too…mind you at a lesser level…but there are days when I cannot speak or understand words. I would like to say that it’s because I am intellectual and thinking of some wonderful new idea, but rather most likely, I am just having a day. I know it’s strange, but soy yo. Sometimes I have to stop what I am saying and start again *abort mission* I have begun to try to remedy this and not seem like such a fool, by taking deep breathes and reminding myself, “you at least understand some words Makenna, tranquila” This has come in handy several times.
- “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m Free”
Yes, I do hope you sang that while you read it. As much as some people want to wash away their American identity, especially when loads of Spaniards think Nueva York is all of the US except for Texas…and that it’s a normal thing to ask if you’re Pro-Hil or Pro-Trump (umm, is that even a question anymore?) I know it’s not possible for me. I love the United States, I miss it frequently and I do want to move back eventually. The truth is though, as hard as I study Spanish and as much as I try to immerse myself, I will always be a native English speaker and I cannot change that. I want to learn as much Spanish as I possibly can and be able to switch between the two languages relatively seamlessly, but I will always speak English better. Facts.
The moral of the story is that speaking another language is multi-dimensional. It isn’t something you just pick up and learn in a semester. It is not possible. It requires constant work and practice to improve. BUT. With that said…IT’S FUN. If you love learning languages you’ll understand. The feeling of accomplishment when you remember a new phrase or vocabulary word and can use it in conversation is like an inner Beyonce hair flip. It just feels good. So my advice to people who are learning another language is give yourself some grace, don’t be ashamed if for one day you need to speak English for the entire day (just don’t expect the citizens of the foreign country you are in to follow #petpeeve) and relax…poco a poco it will come.