09022011 Spanish As a Way of Life

Sometimes I forget that I was once fluent in Spanish. Not the “fluency” generated by even 3 years in high school at college; rather the fluency from spending entire days speaking almost exclusively another language, reading avidly in that language and hearing so much Latin music that my own language began to sound unwieldy in my own mouth.

There is something about hearing Ricardo Arjona preaching in his lyrical way in Spanish that simply disengages the cynical part of my personality. Reading Wayne Dyer in Spanish always made the truth in his words more evident and reachable.

Spanish didn’t come easily for me. I filled several books with words to remember, jokes, phrases, etc. When I heard music that I didn’t understand, I would search out the lyrics and study them until they had penetrated my thick head. I learned that I had actually do have a propensity for languages – just not in the way that traditional school tries to teach it.

Don’t get me started with my preference for Spanish grammar and its spelling system.  As beautiful as English is, we could learn much from the overall simplicity of Spanish.

Spanish became less stressful for me the day I realized that I would never perfect it – never. And that didn’t bother me. If native Spanish speakers mocked me, instead of worrying about their opinion, I would listen to their attempt to speak MY language. The comparison evened out the mockery. Pick up any verb conjugation book in either Spanish or English and you will quickly see that mastery is a rare thing. You should also note that it doesn’t matter. When I had to learn an entire quality system and then teach it to native Spanish speakers, my attitude changed to “do the best I can” and assume that this would be good enough.

I look back on my “fluent” days in the same way a marathoner would on his best race. I worked hard and hit a point where I knew I had succeeded. I’ve backslid tremendously since then. It’s one of my biggest regrets.

In an average day, we don’t use even a 1,000 different words. That’s it, even if it sounds low to you. Years ago, I started recommending that people wanting to learn Spanish try to learn just one word a day. For anyone truly interested in learning, they soon found themselves learning much more than 1 word a day, without any extra effort. Committing to just 1 word a day made the likelihood of failure less likely.

It is odd seeing my region coming to terms with the Hispanic population. Years ago, I was one of the few people stressing that simple economics would require that the prejudice against foreign languages be lessened. Seeing it so strongly now, everywhere, is refreshing.