Thursday, March 12, 2009

Learning Spanish

I don't speak Spanish yet. I muddle through when in Ecuador and am amazed at how much I actually understand. If I focus, I can almost understand everything, or at least the general sense of what I hear. Isabel is from the coast and speaks much more rapidly than the QuiteƱos, and I was able to keep up with her. I have had the intent for years now to make the effort to learn Spanish and have taken an evening course at Johns Hopkins on two occasions. I am always enthusiastic at first, but get bogged down by the grammar and lose my focus halfway through the eight session course. I do better when I join in a conversation and forget about the grammar. That went over well for years, until I took a weeklong course in beautiful San Miguel de Allende, Mexico last June, and my teacher scolded me for speaking without thinking and messing up my grammar. I am more hesitant now, and let Eric speak for me whenever possible. Eric's Spanish is much better, and he speaks in more than one tense. Last year he gave a talk about his research at the university in Ecuador and was able to make himself understood I was so impressed!

I am told repeatedly that Maya will learn the language easily. Isabel suggested we leave Maya with her for a few weeks in the summer and she will teach her Spanish. I am not sure I am ready to leave Maya with anyone, but I may decide to come to Quito a month early to put Maya in a Spanish speaking environment so she will be more prepared when school starts. Quito is known for its Spanish schools, which is an option for me, but it will be more effective simply to be in a Spanish environment where the signs, the television, the radio and the people around me speak nothing but Spanish.

The language is beautiful. I like hearing it. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to learn it. It is useful in so many countries including the United States. Miami airport feels like a city in South America. Everyone is speaking Spanish. When I get stuck in immigration for any reason I am spoken to in Spanish, which is always a curious experience. Southern California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico are all bilingual.

My priority for Maya during her year in school in Ecuador is to learn Spanish. If she learns nothing but Spanish in school it will be a success. The same goes for me.

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