Posts Tagged: Multilingual Mondays

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The book I’ve been reading lately, Steal Like an Artisttells me that if I want to unlock my creativity, one of the many things that helps is to share my work with people, online, daily, even if it’s just a snippet, a quick blurb, photo, or quote from a book I’m reading. So here’s my snippet for today:

I want to revamp my blog. A lot of my visual artist friends have their own websites to represent their creative, working self, and I want the same. I want a website where I can showcase my published work and talk about me as an artist, where I can keep a daily inspiration blog including anything from quotes, to previews of my current projects, to annoying Instagram food pictures, and where I can link to my side projects, like Multilingual Mondays and Hipster Klaine. That’s the big creative endeavor I’m working on right now: a new website!

Steal Like an Artist also tells me it helps to invite others to wonder with me, so consider this your official invitation to help me with this project! If you’re a tumblr user, have you found a theme that allows you to do something that looks more like a website, with different tabbed sections that link to different content? Do you have recommendations for another website platform that’s easy to use and could suit my purposes? Are you a freelance web designer who’s interested in helping me make a website? Any other tips/insights?

Thanks, dudes! Looking forward to getting more creative and sharing it with y’alls!

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Tonight as I was walking home and pondering how I would spend my Monday night now that my Spanish class is over, I noticed a big ugly chair thrown in the pile of black garbage bags along the curb in front of me, and I remember what I’d been missing for the last 3 months — Monday Night Garbage Night Curbside Furniture Picking. I’m really proud of my free furniture curb picks over the last year. I started small, with a broken end table that I “refurbished” by setting a bronze plate on its top. Then I found a nicer end table. Then a makeshift TV stand. Then a microwave cart (and seriously, a nice wheelie microwave cart can go for over $100…). I even took a painting once. Finally, one day, my crowning jewel found me, a naturally antique-looking desk that I use as my creative and productive space. Yay! Bearing in mind the rule that one of my colleagues passed down to me, I passed by the upholstered chair and kept walking, and stumbled upon some serious bounty in front of my own building: a wood and glass coffee table and matching desk. So what, we already have a coffee table and 3 desks between the two of us, this was a nice set, and I wanted it to be mine, so I disassembled everything right there on the sidewalk, and lugged it inside, with the help of some obliging neighbors who were kind enough to grab the doors for me.

While my compulsion for free furniture may be a tad much, it reminded me of all of the nonverbal languages I’ve become fluent in over the last two years, the languages of New York. I speak curbside furniture: I know which days are garbage days, and which streets have the most apartment buildings and ergo, the most free furniture. I know not to pay hundreds for antiques when one will end up on my sidewalk. I know to avoid anything upholstered, because, bed bugs. I’ve learned how to furnish an apartment for free.

I’ve learned how to speak subway. When I first came to New York on my own for my interview at my job, I could not have been more lost when it came to public transit. I panicked searching for a quarter machine in Laguardia so I could have exact change for the bus (thank god the HR manager had mentioned that), and then had a harrowing ride in on the M60 into Manhattan, frantically flipping through the 4 pages of Google Maps I’d printed out. Even then, I got scared and got off too early, wandering down into the subway and asking the lady behind the glass if this was where I could find Metro North. After finding the real Metro North station, it took a while to figure where to buy my ticket (the booth) and when the train would be coming. When I did ride the subway for the first time, all the lines, letters, and numbers blurred together, and I wished it could just be simpler, like the T in Boston. “I don’t need all these lines,” I thought, “just show me a map with just the 456.” My first shuttle ride between Grand Central and Times Square was a rare thrill, and my initial bus rides were an interesting practice in running to the stop to catch the bus, and then either getting off two stops before or two stops after my intended stop, each time. These days, I bus like a pro. I’m the go to girl for anyone in my office who’s looking for ways to avoid Metro North and save a dollar. I have the W45 weekday schedule memorized, and I’ve successfully figured out how to get from Astoria to Flushing via bus, just for shits & gigs (and bubble tea). The subway is a piece of cake, and makes DC and Boston’s transit look like a child (I read recently that the 456 line gets more foot traffic in a day than all of Boston’s T system). The other weekend, as I headed into the city for my weekend job, I witnessed a man, a father with his wife and two kids, trying to figure out where to get off the subway. It was a crowded car, and the way he leaned back to try to see the schedule, and his uncertainty about whether our train would stop at their station made it evident that they were tourists, that he had very little idea what he was doing, but that his family had deemed him most competent and trusted him to figure it out without really having much faith in him. From 86th, I minded my business, but after 59th, when I heard him say something about “33rd” I had to step in. I asked where he was going, and explained that we were on an express train and he needed the local, so at the next stop they could get out and just walk across the platform and transfer to the 6. The man was so relieved. It’s not a special story, and one I’m sure all New Yorkers have. But, it stood out to me in that moment that I spoke a language someone else didn’t: subway.

I also speak food in a way that I didn’t before. In particular, I’ve become fluent in bagel, which is saying something for a girl who came from a town so white bread that she didn’t even meet a Jew until she was 17. I understand that the freezer bagels are bread masquerading in a bagel shape, and that chain bagels are passable, but vaguely styrofoam. Only a real, true New York bagel will do it for me now. The very Dunkin Donuts bagels that were a precious commodity for me when I lived in upstate New York, only available on the rare days that I went to and from Utica or Clinton, are now the sort of bagels I turn my nose down at, or roll my eyes about. Pizza is another example. I won’t go into as much detail, but I know a New York slice, and I know which $1 slice places are worth it, and which ones are a rip off. I’ve also learned how to spice up a plain slice with a shit ton of seasonings — oregano, red pepper, parmesan, garlic — to make it feel less, well, plain.

That’s not to mention my mastery of the New York Shuffle, in which we’re all always in a hurry because we’re all always late, or my callous disregard of panhandlers in the subway. I’ve discerned which musicians to give money to and which to ignore. I’ve figured out how to exit the subway and orient myself to which street corner I’m on. I’ve can complain about New York as a way of showing my love for it.

And maybe New York is less the language than the dialect and accent, but in any case, I speak it now. Some things I’m still learning (I have a lot of brushing up to do on my Brooklyn), but when I meet tourists I have an experience similar to my epiphany in Spanish class when we met the level 1 students: for all of my struggles, for all of the things I don’t know, here’s a person in front of me who knows way less, against whom I can measure myself and realize…there was a time I didn’t know these things. And now I do. And that’s called progress.

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Esta noche fue mi último clase de español tres, y estoy pensando en cambio

Esta noche, tuve un diferente profesor y mi clase fue más pequeño porque era la pascua judía, el pesach

Esta noche hubo césped en Bryant Park en vez de una pista de hielo

Esta noche monté el subway en vez de el metro north porque estoy viviendo en Manhattan esta semana en el apartamento de mi colega mientras cuido a su gato.

Esta noche llegué al apartamento a las 10, mientras que usualmente yo sólo salgo en el tren a las 10.

Esta noche aprendí de un professor diferente

Y esta noche voy a dormir en una cama diferente

Esta noche tengo más tiempo para escribir de mi noche

Y esta noche creo que cambio me haría bien, sí.

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Tonight was my last Spanish 3 class, and I’m thinking about change.

Tonight, I had a different professor, and my class was smaller because it was the Passover

Tonight there was grass in Bryant Park instead of an ice skating rink

Tonight I rode the subway instead of Metro North because I am living in Manhattan this week in one of my colleague’s apartments while I watch her cat

Tonight I arrived at the apartment at 10, while usually I only leave in the train at 10.

Tonight I learned from a different professor

And tonight I’m going to sleep in a different bed.

Tonight I had more time to write about my night

And tonight I am thinking that a change would do me good, it would.

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Tonight marked our ninth and quasi-final Spanish 3 class. There’s a tenth class next week, but it’s Passover and my professor and a few students will be out, so we treated tonight’s class as our last and threw a classy little fiesta. Our professor brought Yerba Mate, and I and my seat mate cum partner-in-crime Emily both brought some red wines (de Chile y Argentina, claro). We spent the first part of class learning about Yerba Mate, and then wine, and then talking about the new (Argentine) pope, his political views (muy conservador) and the perception of Argentinians throughout the rest of Latin America. It was a small class again – 5 students – but we had a lot of fun and celebrated being completely done with grammar! By that point I had slammed down my vino a bit too quickly, to the point where my brain was a little lax in the comprehension department, but was slugging away in the conversation department. I’d have to check with my classmates/professor, but I’m pretty sure I spoke faster and with a better accent one glass in. We also read an article from a smutty newspaper like the National Enquirer about a man who committed suicide because he was so grief-stricken that Chávez died (our professor made sure to emphasize that the story was blatantly fake), and then listened to a song, coincidentally about remembering people. Aww.

I will miss this class a lot. More so than the other classes I’ve taken, I feel like I grew and sort of went on a journey with these people, not just in the same classroom as them. I was wary of them at first, then unsure, then intimidated, and finally comfortable. I’ve already talked with a couple about taking Spanish 4 together (eventually…when Arabic is done) and doing informal meet-ups/study groups. The last few months have flown by, and it’s definitely a bit bittersweet to be at the end here. Sure, I do have one more class, but with a substitute professor and less some of my favorite classmates, it seems like more of a bonus class, a postscript.

And so tonight, as Metro North slugged along and I brushed red velvet cupcake crumbs off my dress, I reflected on the last 10 weeks, and reviewed all that I’ve done and learned:

  1. 1.       When I started class, Spanish was just filling my time before Arabic started. I was excited to be conquering the past tense, but a little nervous about the new location and the group
  2. 2.       During our first holiday break, I started utilizing some new resources to study Spanish beyond cracking a book: WordRef for a dictionary and conjugation tools, and Spotify for some great Spanish music (still love Chavela Vargas!)
  3. 3.       Returning to class, I vowed to wow everyone, and to do it sober. After more Bruno Mars and coffee than could possibly have been necessary, overcompensation became the theme of the night, and I learned that I have the most fun and learn the most not when I try too hard, but when I just relax
  4. 4.       Three words reflect a turning point: I discover, to my great shame, that I’m not doing well in class, and need to practice. I mean, need. I vow to practice every day over the next few weeks while I’m on vacation
  5. 5.       I rediscover Duolingo and how fun a daily dose of Spanish can be
  6. 6.       I journal while on a cruise and celebrate the first time that I have been able to express my thoughts, feelings, and write about my day in (hopefully) correct tenses in another language
  7. 7.       I barely have time to angst about a make-up lesson with my professor before finding it really helpful and getting a much-needed confidence boost. Heading into class that week, I promise myself to have fun, to talk, and to focus. The result is the sort of night I wished I’d had back in week 3 – I’m relaxed and confident, having fun as the product of hard work
  8. 8.       The most fun I’ve had in class so far, when only 3 other students show and shit gets real silly. Our professor introduces us to the Spanish language This American Life, and we celebrate another milestone – listening to and comprehending complex spoken Spanish
  9. 9.       My Spanish successes and failure to launch in Arabic set each other into sharp contrast. I realize how much fun it is to learn a language once at the intermediate level
  10. 10.   I celebrate the end of an incredible learning experience that has been so much more fun, intense, relevant, and rewarding than any college class. Chatting with the Spanish 1 students who take class right before us reminds me how far I’ve come, and that it’s all relative. I have a lot to learn and practice, but I also know a lot more Spanish than a lot of other people, and if it’s this much fun to keep learning, my conviction to continue learning Spanish has only grown stronger.

Next week, on Multilingual Mondays…

What will class be like with a substitute teacher? Can I bring the leftover wine and have a second party? Just how much weight have I gained since the start of my weekly cupcake tradition? Will it stop snowing so I can sit and enjoy Bryant Park one last time? All this and more, next time, on Multilingual Mondays.

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Two months into the new year, I can’t say that I’ve gone on a date or started training in earnest for a 10k, let alone a half marathon, but with two classes down in Arabic 3 and two to go in Spanish 3, at least I’m making progress on one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

My recently-started Arabic 3 class has been almost a year in the making, whereas the Spanish class I signed up for was a sort off spur of the moment decision to use up some of my barter credit while I waited for my Arabic class to start. It was really just a meant to be a filler, albeit a practical one; sort of like the Glee Project to the summer hiatus of Arabic’s Glee (yeah, I went there). Over the last few weeks, though, I’ve come to really love my Spanish class and I’ve been having a really difficult time switching gears for Arabic. In other words, Arabic, for once, is getting sloppy lingual seconds.

I’ve finally hit a groove in Spanish. My class is meshing well, I’m finally comfortable talking, and things are starting to make sense. I have finally conquered the past tenses and am wrapping my head around the future, the conditional, and subjunctive. This has also been the class that has really pushed me to find small, fun ways to practice every day. This class, more than any other language class I’ve ever taken, has weaned me off a textbook and transitioned my way of learning to fit the real world, and it’s been so much fun! We’re still doing lots of exercises, but for the first time, I’m reading real Spanish news articles, listening to Spanish music and radio, watching Spanish films, and talking about current events with my classmates in Spanish. It has not been easy, but I’ve overcome my shyness and fear and shame and embarrassment and am learning and growing and I absolutely live it and am already going into pre-withdrawal just thinking that we only have two classes left, and for one of those my professor & half the students will be out for Passover. Did you just hear that? That was the sound of mi corazón breaking into a million pieces.

I know that, because of everything I’ve struggled with and learned and mastered in this class, I will be empowered to go on to the next level and better overcome the same things. But still, it’s hard now to imagine learning Spanish with anyone but my class and my professor.

Arabic has been difficult too. I’m so out of practice, and have had a hard time making the time to study. I’ve only just found ways to incorporate Spanish into my daily life, and now I have to add Arabic. It’s a lot! And let me tell you, it’s a lot harder to find gaming apps for learning Arabic, or an Arabic This American Life, and even if I did find one, I’m too beginner to understand much. Now that I’ve tasted the fruits of fun, intermediate level language learning, it’s tough to go back to the much less fun and more time-consuming study methods of memorization, repetition, flash cards. Ugh. I’m frustrated, I wish I was more advanced in Arabic to do the fun stuff, but I’m never going to get there unless I put in my time and do the hard work now.

Class is tough, too, because it’s just me and another student. Which is a fantastic ratio, to be sure, but I’ve felt terrible in our last few classes because I’m so rusty I’m dragging along my sole classmate with me. I know I just have to study more, and the sooner I do it, the sooner we can move on to the fun stuff.

Maybe it’s all just in my head. Maybe Arabic really isn’t all that much more difficult than Spanish. Heck, we learned the past tense two weeks ago, that’s pretty baller! Maybe I can start journaling, in SUPER rudimentary form, in Arabic soon. Maybe it’s just that being on the other side of my Spanish class is making me resistant to start back at the beginning in another language, like that terrible transition between high school and college, when 13 years-worth of fighting to the top to rule your school and hometown are flushed down the drain and you’re back to square one in a new place with new people and new challenges, and all you can think is, “why did I do this to myself?” As if there were any other options.

In this case, there are options.  I could stop taking Arabic. No one’s forcing me to. I could postpone level 3, take it at another time when life is less busy (ha!) and I’m in a break from Spanish.

But ultimately, while the happy and proud feeling I have now towards the end of my Spanish class sets into contrast my early failures & frustrations with Arabic 3, I think it’s also what motivates me to work harder and stick with Arabic. Because, if completing a Spanish 3 class feels this good, I can just imagine how I’ll feel with I conquer Arabic 3. Bring it on.


Next week, on Multilingual Mondays…Will I actually do my Arabic homework? How rad is our Spanish 3 class-end fiesta going to be? Will I hit up Baked by Melissa, Crumbs, or Magnolia for my Monday night cupcake fix? How awesome is this Arabic gif blog?

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arabicproblems:

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OH MY GOD THIS BLOG. I’m so glad this is in my life now, just in time for Arabic 3.

Source: arabicproblems
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These Multilingual Milestones are brought to you by the letters:

A (for Amiga)
B (for Buena), and
C (for Cerveza)

That is to say, gracias a mi amiga buena quién me dio dinero para comprar una cerveza hoy, despues de mi trabajo y antes de mi clase de español.

Which is to say, a massive shout out to my dear friendita (hi Molly!) who gave me money to buy a beer after work and before my class. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so grateful for a $2 gift, or to be willingly consuming Coors (although the 2 roadies after That Day on the way to go see M83 [hi, Alex! You get a shout out too!] come preeeetty close).

Now, I’ve been very proud of my ability and tenacity to overcome the challenges and awkwardness of learning Spanish without the aid of stimulants or depressants. Today’s beer had nothing to do with Spanish, I just had a tough day at work, as we all do from time to time. It was one of those days where I felt so mentally and emotionally exhausted that I felt ill and wanted to go home early, and when I powered through the workday after all, made me even consider going home and - gasp - skipping Spanish class so I could just curl into a ball and slip into a peaceful oblivion for the rest of the night. But I had actually done my homework - all of it. All of it! - the night before, and I’ve been feeling good juju with class and didn’t want to mess that up. So, that beer is what kept me out of the fetal position and got me on my train to the city. Yeah, I was a little blurry-eyed when we pulled into Grand Central, but by the time I got to class I was pretty much back to normal. So thanks again, Molly, for the clutch beer.

Whatever it took to get me there, I’m glad I went, because today’s class was the most fun I’ve had in class so far. We only had 4 people, so that helped make it feel comfortable and cozy. As always, I enjoyed the antics of my seatmate (hola Emily!) and got to see a fun side of my other classmates (hola Susan y Tate!) While we waited for others to arrive, we shot the shit, which I guess we do every class, but this time it felt casual, like REALLY shooting the shit vs. Talking About Our Weekend Using The Preterite and Imperfect. This led to a discussion - in Spanish, of course, on lucid dreaming, and when class starts this way, you just know it’s only going to go up from there. We read a poem about a man who had a tattoo of Che’s face, and then practiced the subjunctive a lot. Some parts clicked immediately, others were more confusing, but all in all it went over well and was a lot of fun. We giggled a lot over the fact that Emily had FINALLY bought a textbook but that it was the wrong edition, so every time we read exercises aloud, her characters had different names and used slightly different verbs. Now that I think about it, it really shouldn’t have been so funny, but I’m telling you, we were all giggling like schoolgirls every time she said “Vincento” when our books said “Hector.” We did some exercises and I did pretty well. I think I understand when to use the subjunctive, but I need to practice writing & recognizing it.

Along those lines, we ended class with a listening exercise, listening to a radio segment on a woman whose car was stolen but then found after she prayed about it. And let me tell you, this was a BIG DEAL. Not the lady finding her car, although that was too - un milagro (a miracle) by her estimation - but that we listened to a radio segment. As our professor explained, if we can do this, we can read books in Spanish, we can watch TV in Spanish, we can do anything once we can listen and roughly comprehend without using a dictionary (at least, I THINK that’s what he said). So I feel pretty proud and accomplished, and have been thinking tonight about what a milestone this class has been for me. Spanish 3, at Fluent City, at least, is all about wrapping up grammar (we have like 1 more tense to go!) so that we can move on to a conversational class (level 4).

This class has been completely different from any other language class I have ever taken in this regard, specifically the progression to being conversational. In the beginning, we spent a lot of time doing exercises in the book, and would have a lot of homework that we’d review, and only spent a little bit of time talking about our weekends or reading a newspaper article, “conversations” that were small bookends on the rest of the class. But today, we only spent about ¼ of the time working out of the book and spent much more time talking. Even if we were doing exercises, we’d go off on tangents, and we found pretty much everything — even a discussion about faith, miracles, and religion — funny, amusing, and all-around enjoyable, even if it was a really freaking difficult exercise in the first place. I’m talking a lot more, and I’ve noticed that my classmates are as well. It’s pretty incredible that in just, what’s it been, 7 weeks so far, we’ve gone from being terrified and embarrassed (ok maybe just me) to feeling comfortable and confident with one another and with our new language. I’m really proud. I have never been able to communicate so much in a foreign language in my life, and if you’ve been following along this adventure, you’ll recall I quite recently doubted that I ever would. Well, here I am and I can only get better from here. I’ve pushed past the plateau! And if I can become conversational in Spanish, I can become conversational in other languages too, which bodes really well for the Arabic 3 class I started on Saturday, during which we started learning the past tense. Grammar work in Arabic!! Who’d have thunk I’d be learning that already??

All this to say, I’m feeling really, inexpressibly good, proud, and accomplished. It has not been always been easy, but I’m getting there! Y gracias a todos por su apoyo – thanks everyone for your support!

 

Next time, on Multilingual Mondays…will I be able to overcome my premature grief that the end of Spanish class is near (3 more weeks!) and make the most of the time I have left with my class? Will we all become BFF and speak Spanish together forever? Will Bryant Park be open again next week once the ice skating rink is torn down? Don’t you think it’s indicative of how icky NYC weather is that the Bryant Park ice skating rink is open for FIVE out of a possible twelve months in the year? Will I ever remember to go to Office Max before class to get those index card notebooks I saw one of my classmates with on the first day of class so that I can make flashcards? Will the Spanish learning potential of “Radio Ambulante” — the Spanish “This American Life” — be able to make up for its lack of Ira Glass’s voice? Can anything make up for not being Ira Glass’s voice? All this and more, next time, on… Multilingual Mondays.

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I’m cheating a little bit with this post, because, in a rare turn of events, instead waiting two weeks to post between classes, I can actually post about two classes in one week! Whoa!

If you recall, my last Spanish class was a desastre (n. disaster) and over the last 3 weeks I’ve worked very hard to catch up. In addition to my Duolingo addiction & journaling in Spanish, I also watched a Spanish movie, El Diario Motocicleta, and – AND – had a makeup lesson with my professor for the class I missed while on the cruise. My benevolent boss (Hi Sam!) is now allowing me to use my barter credit towards private & makeup lessons, and not a moment too soon. I hastily set something up with my obliging professor (Hola Jordan!) and before I knew it I was in my first ever private lesson.

Can I first explain how much this had the potential to turn into my own personal hell? I’ve already made clear my own mortification at my struggles to speak and understand Spanish, but a private lesson, I mean, there’s nowhere to hide. You can’t just not make eye contact and hope your professor leaves you alone. I really could have freaked out about this but I did pretty good. Maybe it was that everything was so last minute (we finalized our 8 pm appointment just a few hours prior that day) that I didn’t have time to fret, but I also think I was just very determined to, quite frankly, kick ass, and so it ended up being really helpful. Sure, the whole 1:1 ratio is pretty great. I’d never even considered doing a private lesson before because of the cost – it always felt extravagant – so the whole concept was incredibly shiny and new to me – what, we can go over whatever I want, and only what I want? We can do exercises tailored specifically to what I need work on? Wait, we can break it down and talk about all these little pronunciation errors we wouldn’t dissect with a full class? Okay! But I also think what helped the most was just getting some affirmation, and from a reliable source. This is something I learned about myself in a phenomenal educational psychology course I took in college: as a learner, I need to be positively affirmed, but that affirmation has to be valid/qualified – it has to come from someone who I know knows what they’re talking about. Hence, all my friends could tell me they loved my creative writing assignment, but I’d angst over it until I got back my professor’s feedback. So too now, as much as I appreciate all support from my friends and family who tell me I sound good to them, when they don’t speak Spanish, and don’t make a (partial/supplemental) living teaching Spanish, that just can’t cut it for me, I won’t believe them. So to hear my professor tell me I’m doing a good job, and am just as good as my classmates, and that there’s no need for me to feel so embarrassed – that gave me the confidence I needed to be able to do all the rest. For those of you who have confided in me your difficulties and embarrassments learning a foreign language, I would really recommend this. It depends on your relationship with your professor, and the cost, but even if you just talk after class or via email, it’s worth confronting your embarrassment and pushing through it to fix what you’re bad at and see what you’re good at. This is one of the first times I’ve really understood, in a personal way, why most of Fluent City’s professors for the lower levels are non-native speakers, because they’ve been there and they know how it feels. A good professor understand the psychology of learning, and I’ll say that most of the ones I’ve talked to at FC are very aware of and understanding of this. I really wasn’t any worse than my classmates, I’d just psyched myself out. We don’t have tests or get grades in my class, so having a private lesson was sort of my way to get an assessment. A progress report, of sorts, and I was pretty happy with it.

So, that was last Thursday, and I felt pretty good going into today’s class. I told myself to do three things:

  1. Have fun (this was a direct order from my professor)
  2. Talk (this was my challenge to myself)
  3. Focus (my reminder to myself that 1&2 would make me less angsty, but not necessarily any better at Spanish, without this third).

How did I do?

  1. We had a smaller class today – 6 people – so, yeah, we got a little silly. When we split into pairs (well, I was in a trio), not only did I understand the instructions, but my partners and I were able to form jokes out of our responses. In Spanish. In the subjunctive tense. We took a break from guns and sex and instead read a nice story about a young boy who made imaginary friends. It was very cute and whimsical and I got to read the paragraph about his imaginary friend named “Gangster,” so, yeah, that was fun too. I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable with my classmates, and I’m really seeing what my professor meant about how much easier it is to learn when you’re having fun.
  2. We always talk about our weekends at the start of class. This is a nice exercise because it breaks the ice, but is also super useful (muy practico) when you’re studying the past tenses. For once, I actually had an interesting weekend, so I did volunteer to share about my weekend, instead of waiting to be called on. WHAT?! Yes, again, one more time, I volunteered to talk. And I did pretty good. Granted, I’d been practicing what I’d say in my head all day, but still. Everyone was pretty interested in my “Off-the-radar” wine party, and in this way, I took part in an actual, volleyed conversation. Wow. I volunteered to read at one point, and I asked my questions when they came up. And at no point in time did I feel self-righteous about these things; I just did them because these two hours are really the only two hours a week I have to speak Spanish. So I might as well speak.
  3. I think I did focus better this week, yes. Part of it was realizing that, when I’m saving a part of my brain to calculate how much I understand, that takes away from my total brain capacity for actual comprehension. That being said, I found I understood much more today than I did three weeks ago. Sometimes I had to reread the instructions twice, and I didn’t understand a lot of words in the reading, but not any more so than any of my classmates. By talking not just to seem like an active participant, but because I wanted to practice; by loosening up, forgetting my embarrassment, trusting myself, relaxing, and having fun; by not letting myself get too silly and focusing on the material – I had a great class.

It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, but honestly, a lot of it has been fun. So I’m going to keep it up. Now that I’m hitting my stride, I’m sad to think about class ending soon. JUST WHEN I’M GETTING COMFORTABLE! BLARGH! And, oh yeah, did I mention I’m taking an Arabic class now too? Started last Saturday but I couldn’t go, so for me, starts this Saturday. Yep, that’s happening.

Next Week, on Multilingual Mondays: Will I continue my upward trajectory in Spanish, or will my discipline wane? Just how overloaded will the language center of my brain become when I start working on Arabic again? Will I remember to hit up Crumbs before class since they’re always closed after? How funny is it that Spanish 3 was supposed to be a filler class to use up some of my credit before the Real Deal, Arabic 3, started, and now I’m hooked on Spanish again and hesitant to jump back into Arabic lest I cramp my flow? Even though the February “Film Festival” is over in Bryant Park, will there be something cool to replace it? All this and more, next week, on Multilingual Mondays

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Last I wrote, I was about to go on vacation and have a 3 week hiatus from Spanish class, oy! I ended up finding it way too tasking to come up with a new way to practice Spanish each day, so I just stuck with the first couple that worked.

The first week, after my last class and right before I went on vacation, I decided to go back to Duolingo, the free language learning program brought to you by the same people behind ReCAPTCHA. I dabbled in it when it first came out, but I’m pretty sure that was back when I was still focusing on Portuguese and hadn’t even conceived of my Spain trip yet, so Spanish was on the back burner. When I logged into my account again two weeks ago, I found that it’d grown from a little start-up that only offered Spanish, and was in the Beta phase of that, to a thriving and legitimate (and still free) program to learn Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, German, and Italian, now complete with an insanely addictive iPhone app. This was the very first supplemental learning tool I turned to, and it was also the last. I. am. hooked. It’s so fun. Part of their schtick is that if feels like a game (“Learning, Gamified” reads one of the promotional headers on their website). You lose lives if you get a question wrong, and at the end of a level, you get a trophy. There’s even a trumpet sound! I cannot even describe to you the thrill of seeing a topic go from locked, to open, to a solid gold trophy. Just go try it yourself. Pick a language, make a log in, and prepare to be addicted. One of the best things about Duolingo is that it is really convenient for us crazy-busy folk. At first I squeezed it in on my lunch breaks, but when I discovered the iPhone app, I was suddenly able to  do it (I’m half-tempted to say “play it”) at the gym, on my way to work, on a five-minute bathroom break. Instead of compulsively checking Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and back to Facebook again when I was bored or in awkward social situations, I’d just go to Duolingo. It’s super easy to use, insanely addictive, and very convenient. Oh! And you can “test out” of the beginning levels, so this isn’t just for absolute beginner learners. I’m in an intermediate Spanish class getting into pretty serious grammatical work, but Duolingo helps me build and practice my vocabulary. It’s a fantastic supplement and I’m hooked.

My second week, though, I had to try a different tactic, because I was on a cruise with my mom and sister, and wouldn’t you know, those cruise companies make sure to find a way to scramble your signal so you don’t have network access and have to pay out the ear for an internet connection. It being my vacation and all (and coupled with the fact that my money was already reserved for the spa and booze), I disconnected and went a less tech-savvy, but no less effective route: journalling. Each day, I wrote in my diary. In Spanish. I’m just going to take a moment to celebrate this because I just journalled in a foreign language, and I have never in my life been able to do that before, so I AM learning something, dammit!! As I’ve mentioned, our first few classes focused on the past tenses (BECAUSE THERE ARE 2 IN SPANISH AND IT’S MORE CONFUSING THAN I COULD EVER HAVE EXPECTED), so this is the absolute perfect exercise and I’d highly recommend it to anyone working on tenses. Honestly, if you’re a beginner you could still do it too, just in the present tense until you learn the past (“This morning I eat cereal with milk. Then, I showered myself…”). The benefit of this was that I was flexing my grammar muscles, and training my brain to discern which past tense to use. In our last class we also learned…I don’t remember what it’s called and I’m too lazy to walk into my room and grab my notebook and look, so I’ll just say it’s the “I have somethinged” tense: I have walked, I have eaten, I have heard, etc. And also the “I was somethinging” tense: I was eating, I was laughing, etc. which isn’t directly translated in the past preterite to be something like, “estuve comiendo,” but uses a completely different tense, the imperfect, which we apparently don’t have in english, so that it’s “comía” instead, which is literally just “I ate” but it means more like “I was eating”…all this to say that, as our professor comforted us, we just have to train our brains to think in Spanish, because thinking in English and then translating to Spanish just doesn’t work — it’s difficult, confusing, time-consuming, and usually not correct. So every time I wanted to say something like, “While I was reading, my sister came back to our room,” I was forced to navigate my way through two tenses: “Cuando leía, mi hermana regresó a nos cuarto.” No, it’s not perfect, and now that I’m re-reading it, I really need to learn to start using mientras — while — instead of cuando — when — all the time, but it’s a start. I’ve got the first person past preterit down SOLID for comer and beber (to eat and to drink), and my brain is at least a little more used to figuring out the differences between the imperfect and the past preterit. I’m not quite thinking in Spanish yet, but I’m at least on my way, and I think that at this point, these diary “drills” really are helping. What I found was that Duolingo was good for vocabulary practice (without my handy dandy WordRef app [and you KNOW I did not take a Spanish-English dictionary with me on vacation], I had to leave some words in my journal in English, ie, “Comí [lamb] y [pumpkin]” etc.) and journalling was good grammar and tense work, which I’ve not progressed to in Duolingo yet. I also got some good conversational practice with my sister, who majored in Spanish in college, and discovered that my stinking perfectionism is seriously hindering my ability to converse in Spanish because I got nervous, shy, frustrated, and angry trying to speak with someone as calm, friendly, harmless, and pressure-less as my older sister on vacation. Oy!

So I’ve found some things that work for me so far, but it’s not quite a perfect system yet. I do still want to put up post-it notes around my room for vocab practice, and I still have to pick out a Spanish movie to watch on Netflix to fulfill my homework. My sister also recommended watching an English movie I already know well in Spanish with Spanish subtitles — since I already know the plot and dialogue, it will make it a bit easier to see how it translates to Spanish, removing the extra layer of trying to figure out what the hell’s going on. It’s all I can do to contain myself from checking out my DVD collection — in an ottoman literally at my feet right now — to see if I can pull this off with Zoolander or Love Actually or DEAR GOD EVERWOOD. How about I just marathon through my entire DVD collection in Spanish? Fun? Sí?

We’ll see, and I’ll keep you posted on how everything goes. Any other suggestions out there?

Next Time, on Multilingual Mondays: After three full weeks off, will I understand anything in my class next week? Will all of my extra practicing have helped me catch up, or only prevented me from falling even further behind? Am I ever actually going to get around to putting up sticky notes in my room? And what movie will be playing in Bryant Park next Monday at 7 pm, and do you think it will be in Spanish? All this and more, next time, on Multilingual Mondays…

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Enough of this passive blog reading. Today, I’m going to make you work. Today, I’m going to teach you Spanish. Just three words, nice and easy. Which words are they? Let’s…

Descubrir (v.) to discover. For example:

Esta noche, yo descubrí que es posible ver películas en Bryant Park a las siete de la noche.

Tonight, I discovered that it is possible to watch movies in Bryant Park at 7 pm (It was Peter Pan. It was awesome)

Lo descubrí cuando caminaba de Grand Central a a mi clase en Times Square.

I discovered this when I was walking from Grand Central to my class in Times Square (It was not as cold as you might think)

Descubrí que es más fácil, rápido, barato y agradable para caminar entre Grand Central y Times Square, de montar el metro.

I discovered that it is easier, faster, cheaper, and more pleasant to walk between Grand Central and Times Square than to ride the subway (even if Metro North is still more expensive because even though I bought a 10-pass between New Rochelle & Fordham I can’t bring myself to use it when I know I’m going to Grand Central).

Esta noche, también descubrí que estoy un mal estudiante del Español.

Tonight, I also discovered that I am a poor Spanish student.

(What I wanted to say is I’m a remedial Spanish student, but I can’t find a way to translate that correctly, especially because this usage of “remedial” isn’t proper English to begin with; remedial refers to the extra “corrective” classes that struggling students need to take, not to the students themselves. Much like how people aren’t diagnosed, their diseases are, but we still say, “I was diagnosed with…” and also finally it’s anti-climactic, not anti-climatic until you are against the climate, and I learned that on Joan of Arcadia from the child God who later played a sociopathic murderer on CIA and majorly creeped me out so BOOM!)


Anyway, it’s true. I am a student in need of remedial Spanish 3 classes. In the office this weekend, my Spanish professor casually mentioned that I/you/one should understand about 80% of class. Too much, and it’s not helpful because you’re not learning anything, like one student in particular who understands everything. I asked if that student was advanced, but turns out nope. That student is exactly where he (or she! He or she!) needs to be for this level. Which means the rest of us…

I sure don’t understand as much as this star student, so I couldn’t help but wonder how much I do understand in class. I suspected I was under 80, but guessed around 70% or so. So today in class, I worked really hard on concentrating, while saving a tiny sliver of brain capacity to note my comprehension.

Descubrí que solamente entiendo más o menos 50% de lo que hablamos.


I discovered that I only understand more or less 50% of what we talk about.

And between you and me, it’s more on the “less” side. So how did this revelation make me feel?

 

Avergonzada (adj f; Avergonzado, adj m): embarrassed, self-conscious, ashamed. See also vergüenza (n.): shame.

As in,

Estaba muy avergonzada cuando lloré despues de olvidé mi cartera en un taxi en Brasil.

I was very embarrassed when I cried after I forgot my wallet in a taxi in Brazil (a summary of the [true] story I wrote as homework for tonight)

En Argentina, hombres tienen vergüenza cuando tienan dificultades en sus vidas sexuales.

In Argentina, men are ashamed when they have difficulties in their sex lives (our professor’s explanation of why women are always the ones to reach out to sex counselors, the subject of this week’s article)

Esta noche, me sentí muy avergonzada cuando descubrí que estoy una de los peores estudiantes en mi clase de español.

Tonight, I felt very embarrassed when I discovered that I am one of the worst students in my Spanish class (a true statement, intentionally using the transitory, not permanent, form of “to be,” because I can change this. How?)

 

Practicar (v.): to practice. Like:

Necesito practicar el español cada día si quiero mejorar.

I need to practice Spanish every day if I want to improve.

I’ve known this all along. But now that my professor’s said it to me explicitly – after I confessed to procrastinating my homework – and after a day like today, there is no more room for doubt or excuses. It wasn’t like today was a disaster or anything, but I felt so dejected and deflated after class, and I’m not doing this to only understand 50% of what we go over; I’m doing this to learn and to learn I need to build myself up to 80% comprehension. So, I’m going to do something new to practice Spanish every day this week, and lucky you get to practice with me.

Posiblemente, voy a practicar por escribiendo palabras en español en notas adhesivas y pegandolos en mi habitación

Possibly, I will practice by writing words in Spanish on sticky notes and sticking them around my room. (an idea I hear colleagues recommend all the time, and one which a friend of a Spanish 2 student, herself an Arabic learner [woo!] recommended to me from her time learning Zulu [badassss] while she was waiting for her friend’s class to end)

Posiblemente voy a practicar por viendo una pelicula en español

Possibly, I will practice by watching a movie in Spanish. (an actual homework assignment for this week. I have a few foreign language films in my Netflix queue, let’s see which I fancy for this week. Any recommendations?)

Puedo practicar por haciendo ejercicios en el internet

I can practice by doing exercises on the internet (and how I need to! Verbs! Nouns! ¡Todos!)

Voy a practicar en un manera diferente cada día esta semana. En el próximo semana, cuando estoy en un crucero, posiblemente voy a escribir en mi diario en español e posiblemente hablo con mi hermana en español también.

I will practice in a different manner every day this week. In the next week, when I am on a cruise, I will possibly write in my journal is Spanish and possibly talk with my sister in Spanish too.

 

Creo que, voy a descubrir que cuando practico, no voy a sentir vergüenza nunca más.

I think that I will discover that when I practice, I will not feel embarrassed anymore.

 

Next time on Multilingual Mondays:

Will I be able to discipline myself to practice Spanish every day for the next three weeks, as I miss class next week and then class skips Presidents’ Day? Does re-watching the Taco Bell’s “Viva Young” commercial count? But, really?