Having lived more than 6 continuous months in a Spanish speaking country, my Spanish has improved immensly, but in my everyday life it is hard to feel that it has happened. In March I went to Migracciones for a tramitÃ© my progress was substantially aided by making eyes at the girl behind the desk flying the bureaucracy. I was functional, but only to a point. This month in the process of securing a door I can lock and wall to hang a whiteboard, I have been corralling the various moving Latino parts of the process exclusively in Spanish. I have still been running the papers I have signed in the process past the Venezolana during lessons after I sign them for my own safety, but the temptation to bring a tag along to meetings hasn't been present.
When viewed the apartment which is now en tramitÃ©, the kind girl offered to speak in English. I employed the trick I am every more practiced in where in three to four speaking lines I shift from English to Spanglish to Spanish, and their own mental inertia deprives them of the opportunity to practice English. This is the polite way I defuse the local anglophone fetishists from profiling me as a free chance to practice English.
The less polite way is I indicate their accent in English is unintelligible. It rarely is, and there is more resistance to this avenue. It tends to be more satisfying by far.
I am still dating the Peruana nurse I met in March. Her only language is Spanish. She absolutely adores1 me. The old "get a girlfriend" advice when it comes to language learning works and is well supplemented by making friends with girls. In the early days and weeks here, my brain couldn't be arsed to try to decode what the boys were saying. Now that the decoding takes far less effort, the brain will bother to decode what the boys say only to be consistently underwhelmed with the poverty of content in their many words.
There's also a lot to be said for sending substantial periods of time alone with someone who only speaks the target language.
Despite being mostly functional in Spanish only environments I continue taking structured lessons three times a week. I still can not express every idea my brain bakes in English into the Spanish language, but I manage to produce effective Spanish language speech with the occasional misconjugation or misgendering.2 The need for clarification that follows in these cases creates opportunities for thoughtful composition practice, the only kind that matters.
The difference between thoughtful composition and parrot speaking of lines and scripts can't be emphasized enough. When you are Parrot speaking lines, every incident of novelty is a hard case your scripts can't cover. It can and did cover a substantial number of my everyday activities of living the first few weeks, but the utility is limited. To this end I have decided my goal in Spanish is literacy.
I have not not found any satisfactory definitions of fluency. The language learning fandom has busted the definition of "fluency" all to hell. My goal is literacy or bust and increasing my ability to function in the language still morealong the way. I'll have learned Spanish when I am reliably producing poetry in the language.
- This adoration is markedly distinct from the varieties of positive attention girls back home could muster. Back home a girl could like, love, or even obsess as their English as a single language programming would let them. [↩]
- On the plus side I rarely now have verbal conversations in straight English without Spanglish intruding. That doesn't happen when I am speaking Spanish. [↩]