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Monday, November 05, 2012

The Daily Grind

After so many years here in Spain I wouldn’t say that my life is exactly thrilling but I still see everything through the eyes of a tourist; it’s just that now I think that I’m a really good tourist.  Everything is a lot easier; I waste less time doing the things that I have to do; I think that I blend in better, but none of this means that I’m not learning something new every day. In some ways I feel that my learning curve has grown exponentially as my Spanish improves. People talk to me in a different manner, my reading is more efficient, and I feel more and more like an actual insider here in Valencia instead of a clueless guiri (foreigner).

A casual glance through the books I have read recently shows that the words I’m looking up—all underlined in red ink—as well as the words that I don’t have to look up suggest a pretty high level of Spanish. Most of the words that are new for me are mostly rather complex ideas: verbs with subtle meanings or adjectives with even loftier concepts. I don’t come across many simple nouns that aren’t already a part of my vocabulary and the new ones are absorbed and processed without much effort. Often when I come across a new word I’m a bit shocked that I haven’t seen the word before. For example, take the word “tebeo” which means comic book. It’s not that I read comics, not in English nor in Spanish but I was surprised that I had never seen this word before. After I looked it up I saw the word again almost immediately on a billboard.

As I said before, people speak to me in a different manner as my Spanish evolves. I think a lot of folks assume that I speak almost perfect Spanish, at least if they don’t know me well. When I meet someone for the first time the usual boilerplate conversation that takes place is one that I have repeated about a million times so it’s polished to within an inch of its life. I would love to hear how I sound to Spanish people. I have little idea of how my Spanish has progressed over the years and sometimes I think that it hasn’t. All I can do is try to stay as motivated as possible to continue to improve.

It’s also necessary to stray as far as possible from the daily grind. It’s all too easy to just put one foot in front of the other as we do every day in our auto-pilot mode. Varying my routine almost always yields great rewards. Sometimes it’s as simple as making a different turn on the bike ride home to explore a block I haven’t spent much time exploring. At this point I doubt there are many streets in Valencia I don’t know but there are many I know less well than others.

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