What do Carlos Fuentes, Isabel Allende, Pablo Neruda and Mario Vargas Llosa have in common?

Their works are being read by yours truly in Spanish! This semester I am delving into the literature portion of my Spanish major and I am elated to be reading untranslated versions of some of the great Latin American writers. It occurred to me as I read some 18th century Latin American literature that I can now officially tackle reading nearly anything in Spanish. I wouldn’t pick up a scientific journal filled with medical research in that language, but I wouldn’t do that in my own native language of English either.

I have cracked the code. Since this is my second (okay, third if you count English) code to break, I can sense the walls surrounding a new set of cultures, literature, and communication disintegrating. Although I have been reading, writing, and communicating entirely in Spanish for a year now in my courses, it was not until I began reading selections from these authors in the past two weeks that I realized I have cracked the code. I read “Feast of the Goat” by Mario Vargas Llosa in English before visiting the Dominican Republic in 2006. Seven years later, I am preparing a presentation in Spanish on this work for my class. I couldn’t be happier to have decided to learn Spanish. It is not easy as a working mom, but with few artistic abilities and not many hobbies I can enjoy at the moment, this is my hobby.

I should include the disclaimer that this code-cracking does not mean I have achieved fluency. Verbal fluency requires much practice, and my class participation is not nearly enough to reach that goal. I am seeking ways to practice with friends old and new in order to improve my conversational Spanish. In the meantime, I can curl up with a book and begin to learn how Spanish speakers construct their worlds through fiction.