Saturday, December 31, 2011

Deciding What to Learn


It’s so odd to be taking classes where the curriculum is not at all fixed.  As much as getting used to my instructor, I’m getting used to coming up with a game plan for each class.
The first class was very encouraging.  She basically told me my Spanish was adequate and all I needed to do was to practice speaking.  But speaking about what?  Practicing the dialogues I learned so long ago?  Or pretending to order off a menu?
For the next class I bit off a little more than I could chew.  I chose to read an article about the equivalent of the “Arab Spring” in Chile.  Although I could understand the article in its entirety, when it came time to discuss it, I realized there is a lot of vocabulary that I just don’t have.  It was frustrating to try to answer her questions, when I knew what I wanted to say in English but just couldn’t come up with the Spanish words.
For my class last Thursday, I decided to be more pragmatic, realizing that I probably would not be sitting around with a bunch of intellectual Chileans talking about politics.  And anyone capable of that sort of conversation would probably be fluent in English.  So I decided that I should practice verb conjugations by learning how to describe the accident where I broke my hip and the aftermath.  After all, I am probably going to be asked more than once why I walk with a limp.
When I was in Chile over 30 years ago, one of my fondest memories was going trout fishing on a beautiful river in the lake country.  Each person went with a botero who rowed the boat and did all the disgusting things you have to do to catch a fish, leaving the pure sport of it up to the person with the fishing rod.
Since I would like to recreate that scene and share it with my husband this time, I have decided that my next class should include some of the words I might need to talk to my botero, most of whom do not speak English.  Words like lure and hook and rod and “to catch a fish”, hoping those words would actually describe what happened.  
As for my husband who was starting with no Spanish background, his three lessons have given him the ability to introduce himself, say where he is from, and exchange pleasantries with someone.  He will definitely be equipped with survival Spanish by the time we leave.
I am happy that our instructor is supportive of this idea of creating classes to meet our needs and desires.  That’s a far better use of our time together than going over things we will probably never need to say.

3 Comments:

Blogger karen said...

Hi Barbara
wishing you a very happy New Year!

Great to see this approach to language learning... Really looking forward to hearing about your trip to Chile! It is so wonderful that you have found your old friend once more!!

Hope your lipstick arrives eventually :) I love hearing your UPS tales - reminds me of what we put up with on a daily basis in the third world!!

Very best wishes to you and the family for a fantastic 2012 x

6:38 AM  
Blogger e said...

Happy 2012! It sounds like you both are off to a good start!

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How fun to have the personalized lessons! Sounds really fun (and to-the-point).

F.

12:17 PM  

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