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.

Ah, oui?

Enough. Enough. Enough. I have been way too hard on myself for not speaking French lately to my 21 month old, questioning whether to use my slowly evaporating French, or my newly stronger Spanish, and in the meantime, he is only getting English.

I just started speaking French again. Just like that. Right after putting away the dishes after dinner. I switched to French and I certainly got his attention. He laughed and laughed and laughed until he was turning red in the face. He brought me a French book not long after that, so he must know the difference even if I am not using it that much lately. He continued laughing throughout, and when I would mention the “petite souris” he would say “no, (giggle giggle giggle) MOUSE!!” My husband (non-French speaking) understood much of what I was saying and enjoyed expanding his own vocabulary as I taught them the exclamation dégueulasse when my son put his shoe in his mouth. At bedtime, I read him a French book as I typically do, but this time, he sat up, watched ME rather than the book and smiled as I read.

This is a reminder to keep it fun. I tend to worry so much about everything, and rather than worrying about too much, too little, not native, etc. I need to just share my love for language. He seems to enjoy it too.

My Spanish is taking a hit this summer as I am not enrolled in any Spanish courses, and I am not currently reading anything in Spanish or speaking it with anyone. I hope I can jump right on in this August when my classes start and I have Latin American Literature and Spanish Grammar through Literature. Perhaps I need to jump back into Spanish as well. Just like that. Right after putting my kid to sleep.