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Monday, March 07, 2011

The Perpetual Student

The long march to learn Spanish continues. It never ends and anything resembling an end is far, very far from the horizon.  It’s not like I suffer from false modesty when I say that I have a lot to learn and it’s not like I’m such a perfectionist that I can’t be happy with the command of the language I now possess, it’s just that I know better than anyone how much I have yet to learn and how much I want to improve. Learning Spanish has given me a better perspective on my current hobby of improving my French. My goals in French are modest and very realistic: I’d just like to have a good working knowledge of the language and be able to read more. To this end I picked up a copy of Albert Camus’ La Chute at a bookstore near the main square in Valencia while I was waiting for the Mascletà on Sunday.

I was going to go to the local movie house last night just to force myself to sit through two American films dubbed into Spanish.  I happened to turn on the TV just before I was going out the door and their happened to be a movie that interested me so I stayed home and watched that instead. I ended up watching two dubbed movies back-to-back so I got a good dose of Spanish comprehension practice. The movies were Up in the Air and The Matador and I understood almost 100% of both of them. I even found a couple of Spanish expressions I had just learned last week from something I'm reading. I can’t even remember what the expressions are now but I assure you that I know them in Spanish. French movies thoroughly kick my ass and I imagine it will be a while before I’m able to watch them without subtitles—but as I said, that isn’t really my goal in French.

As any American ex-pat will tell you, it’s incredibly easy to NOT learn the language of where you are living. Television here has many channels in English, there is a large foreign population as well as many Spanish people who speak English, and English dominates in countless arenas in the modern world.  I am less guilty of relying on English than many native English speakers here. I will always speak Spanish unless I’m in a group of all English speakers. I’m sure that people who speak other European languages beside English have fewer opportunities to speak their native languages here and thus learn Spanish quicker. I don’t know this for a fact but it just seems logical.

As I have said over and over, I only read in Spanish (and now in French). My one major drawback in my study of Spanish is that I don’t write much. I write so much in English that I never make the effort to write in Spanish aside from a few short emails. I’ve actually been trying to write something in French before each weekly class. My written Spanish isn’t bad (my Spanish friends always comment on the fact that I insist on including all of the proper accents when I send text messages*) but it needs a lot of work. I would like to write competently in Spanish one day so I had better get cracking.

*I thoroughly despise text messages but they are unquestionably useful and unavoidable. I can never bring myself to use any sort of Text Speak shortcuts like “u” for “you.” When people use these things in emails it drives me crazy; are they in too big of a hurry to be literate?


  1. K Tal? Does that bother u?

  2. Bothered? Heavens no, I find it fascinating. You were able to save four entire keystrokes while making a very convincing argument for being illiterate in two languages.

  3. Good one! You just made my day!

  4. I almost deleted my comment because I was worried that it may have been a bit insulting. I didn't mean it that way at all. I'm a wise-ass but I try not to be a bore about it. I'm sure that I fail on that account on a regular basis. The good news is that I'm used to failure so it's no big deal for me.

  5. I almost deleted mine, I felt like I was harassing you! I kept the faith and you came through.


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