Friday, August 7, 2009

Learning a new language - Spanish

My Spanish exam is finally over. Learning a new language is much more difficult than I thought it would be. I enjoy the classes and I am happy with my professor because he spends a considerable amount of time not only talking grammar, but sharing the stories of various countries in South America, their culture and the kaleidoscope of personalities who are part of their history. Of course my professor speaks exclusively in Spanish in class - I am often flipping pages of my dictionary, scrambling to make out the meanings of words that I do not know.

Perhaps it would have helped if the two languages I already speak - my mother tongue, Malay, and English, conjugate their verbs. Then maybe, I would not be struggling to remember the twenty or more mutations of each word. Sometimes, when I stare at the verbs, the words on the pages become little worms, changing their shapes everytime I mentally shout out a different tense - "Be Imperfect tense! Now Preterite! Then Subjunctive in the singular first-person!" The worms wiggle to form the right verbs. They look so funny! How silly, but it is how I cope.

I am making excuses. What is really slowing my progress is fear. I tell myself that I will only say something in Spanish when I can string together a grammatically perfect sentence. Why? Because I am afraid of sounding stupid and have everyone laugh at me. But as a beginner, that perfection is hard to come by except for very simple sentences. So this fear holds me back. I don't talk, I don't practice, I don't become fluent. My five year-old nephew made me aware of this. He started with Malay and has been learning English in school for about one-and-a half years. During our long-distance phone calls, he chatters away in English, mistakes and mispronunciations and all. But he is blissfully unaware, and so everytime we talk, I hear his English improving. Oh, I so admire his courage. I look up to his three-and-a-half foot person when it comes to learning a new language.

So that is my new resolve - speak more Spanish! I posted the video of the Coca-Cola advertisement above because it's so poignant, and it feels good that I understood all that is written and part of what is said. It's a long way off, but I am looking forward to being able to watch a Spanish movie without subtitles.

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