It’s finals week! I’ve been in a state of semi-constant crazy for the last two weeks, but just two more exams and it is done. Today, I had the oral half of my Spanish final. I drew the topic “estereotipos” to discuss one-on-one with my professor. I had done all the readings, but was not really prepared for the questions he asked about some of the benefits of stereotypes, since our reading on the subject focused primarily on negative aspects of stereotyping. I stumbled through that question. While I think the conversation turned out okay overall, it was a reminder that despite the fact that I can read Spanish well, overall, I am only fluent-ish at best.
I do feel like my Spanish has been improving. Until my current professor, I had never had a professor who taught class at the pace of a native Spanish speaker speaking to other native speakers. All my previous professors had taken the time to ensure that students were understanding. Even if they never spoke English in class, I did not struggle because my professors’ Spanish was relatively slow and clear, and they repeated instructions often.
This professor does no such thing. At first, I was overwhelmed. He spoke fast, like heated-argument-in-a-telenovela fast. I was lucky to catch every third word, and mainly figured out what to do based on what my classmates were doing. In the last several weeks, though, it has gotten much easier. On rare occasions, he still loses me, but I understand almost everything he says. There is undeniable benefit from being forced to understand on the first try, since little, if anything, is repeated. It’s been stressful, but I think the second half of this semester has improved my understanding more than any whole semester of Spanish I’ve had so far.
If I’m understanding so much better after listening to this professor for less than three hours a week, how quickly will Amanda and I improve when we get to Spain and we’re dunked into a place where everyone is speaking like this all the time? Well, we better improve quickly, or there will be a lot going over our heads. I’m expecting the understanding to come more easily than the speaking. The first couple weeks might be difficult, but it will be so rewarding to finally be fluent after studying the language for five years. If my current class is any indication, a little immersion is all we'll need to be bilingual.