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Monday, May 11, 2009

Doldrums and New Breezes

Perhaps the most difficult thing about trying to master another language is that you can never rest on your past accomplishments (assuming you have any past accomplishments). I have recently passed through a couple of weeks in which I haven’t been as diligent about my reading in Spanish. I’m sure everyone goes through the doldrums from time to time when learning Spanish, or any language for that matter. With my sails flapping without effect I felt like my Spanish was actually worsening with every passing day.

It was partly due to laziness and partly because I couldn’t find a book I could really sink my teeth into. I have already listened to all of the Spanish books on tape that a friend gave me. Ironically, I requested that these people visiting from Seattle record some books in Spanish from the Seattle public library as I can’t find many here in Spain. Consequently I have been listening to books in English on my daily bike rides and consequently I have noticed an erosion in my Spanish.

I put the brakes on my skid yesterday by doing quite a bit of reading. I am trying to finish a book I am enjoying very much but it is proving to be quite a challenge. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why one book is difficult to read while I can pick up another and read it straight through with hardly consulting a dictionary. Often I find that books by the same author can fall on both sides of this linguistic barbed-wire fence. José Luis Sampedro’s La Sonrisa Estrusca is a mere 255 pages but has presented quite a barrier as far as my Spanish goes. I have been stuck for a couple weeks now trying to finish it, a few pages here, a few the next day—nothing like my self-imposed schedule of reading 50 pages in Spanish a day. I really like the novel so far so yesterday I sat down and plowed through about 30 pages. I also read out loud for about 30 minutes which I think is an excellent tool for improving pronunciation and overall fluency. Reading out loud for a half an hour is probably more speaking than you would do in an entire day.

I had to more or less will myself out of my trance of Spanish inactivity. I have a couple of Spanish movies to watch. I don’t find movies to be a very good tool in learning the language but every little bit helps. Movies also provide very needed help in cultural assimilation. Just the other day I was in a conversation with some Spanish friends and I felt left out because I hadn’t seen the popular movie they were referencing. I plan on filling that cultural void later today by watching the Spanish film Rec. I don’t want to lose my reputation for being the hardest working immigrant in Spain, at least when it comes to learning the language.