Thursday, 14 May 2009

poco mas

It's all starting to make some kind of sense. Theo and I are no longer beginners at Spanish - we are at solid elementary level and, dare I say it, nudging the dizzy heights of the pre-intermediate stage.

I can tell that my Spanish is improving. I can understand most things I read to a greater or lesser extent and I can just about hold together a simple conversation with a sympathetic and patient companion. I'm still apt to give a cross-eyed and slightly panicky response when somebody unexpectedly speaks to me in Spanish, but even my understanding of the sounds I hear is making progress. What my ears used to interpret as "badabadabadabadabadabada...." now sounds like: "badabada estaba bada manana badaba tambien badabada mas o menos badabadabadabada no?" which, I'm sure you'll agree, is progress.

Interestingly, my English is also improving. Not only my grammar - which is understandable, given the number of hours I devote to studying it to stay ahead of my students (who usually have a far better grasp of it than I do) - but also my vocabulary. Or at least the range of words I use in normal speech. That's probably also related to staying one step beyond my students - if my grammar's a tad shaky at times, I can always blind them with loads of shiny new words. They tend to like that and so do I.

Theo and I are both learning bits and pieces of Spanish from our students - although they're strongly discouraged from using their native language in their English lessons, it doesn't stop them doing so, especially the children. So the free translation service we get as a result certainly helps. Best of all, our students' mistakes when speaking English tend to point to what the equivalent construction would be in Spanish, which gives us a bit of a leg-up during our own language travails.

None of that really eases our pain when it comes to getting our heads round the business of Spanish tenses and verb endings. Not since my Latin lessons have I had to commit so many different suffixes to heart. As for when you use one type of past tense rather than another - don't get me started.

But that said, it's definitely feeling like less of an unintelligible jumble of random sounds and more like real-life words and meanings. And if in doubt, I can always employ my Spanish killer punch: "vale, vale, vale - claro!" It works in almost any situation.

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