This is week three of my fourth semester of Spanish, and I feel it is a good time to reflect upon when and where I started this third language.
Semester one (Spanish 101 and 102 as bi-terms packed into one semester): Spring of 2011 when I found out I was pregnant with A and most days I was just trying not to puke during class.
Semester two (Spanish 201 and 202 as bi-terms packed into one semester): Spring of 2012 after taking a semester off. A. was just a pup. I missed a couple of weeks when he was in the hospital, so it was like missing a month of a regular semester course. I was not there when she taught the subjunctive tense. That is my excuse.
Summer 2012- no Spanish whatsoever
Semester three- (Spanish Conversation and Business Spanish, both conducted completely in Spanish): Fall 2012
And now, Spring of 2013, I am in Spanish Composition and Latin American Civilization and Culture. Both of these courses are delivered entirely in Spanish. I am still not sure how I do it. It doesn’t make any sense. I know this is not exactly Chinese, but I can’t help but wonder where I might be today if I had picked up on languages much earlier in life when my brain was more supple. French is still my go-to language when I am trying to say something complicated in Spanish, but for the most part I can now listen and understand without translating unconsciously in my head. That is always a good indicator of progress.
This week I crossed into an entirely new level of comprehension: note taking. I have not taken notes by hand in a class for a very long time in English, so this is definitely a shock to the system. Tuesday’s Latin American Civilization and Culture course included a whirlwind PowerPoint presentation and my enthusiastic professor’s rapid-fire lecture style. For the first time, I took lecture notes in Spanish for an hour and a half, listening ahead as my hand tried to keep up. My first instinct was to translate into English for future reference, but I soon realized twenty words in that it simply would not do. In my defense, this would not have been such a big deal if we were not dealing with Mayan, Aztec and Inca place names and terminology mixed in with the Spanish explanations. One can barely write out Tenochtitlán, Huitzilopochtli and Moctezuma II before the professor is on to the next empire. She ended the class with a pop quiz including information given that day in class. Thank goodness I could listen, comprehend and write at the same time.
In addition to note taking, I am also composing essays for my composition course. I really love this course, and I have found that the exercise of selecting le mot juste (French phrase for ‘just the right word’) for essays ensures that I learn about 20 new words each night.
I am not sure how I might use this knowledge of Spanish in the future, but for now I am enjoying the process of cracking a new code.