“Hola. Como estas? When I was growing up, my father often spoke to me in Spanish. Having lived in Argentina for two years as a church missionary when he was younger, he was fluent. Every now and then, he would teach me a new word and I loved it. So when I became old enough to learn a language in middle school, I was excited to take Spanish so I could talk regularly with my dad. This was going to be our secret language that no one else in the family would be able to understand.
Although I took Spanish for five years, I never became good enough to speak Spanish with my father on a regular basis. This was so disappointing! What I eventually realized is that learning a foreign language is difficult when you don’t study consistently and when you aren’t speaking it daily.
Well, you can imagine my happiness when I learned that our local elementary school would be offering a dual immersion program for students entering first grade, and my youngest would be able to participate. Best of all, they would be learning Spanish! After talking it over with my son, he agreed to be in the program. When he started learning Spanish that fall, I began to have visions of him teaching me Spanish and having our own secret language.
Somehow, my son didn’t catch onto this same vision because after five years of Spanish immersion, he was thrilled when we had to move to another school, and he could no longer learn Spanish. Sadly, after five years of being immersed in the language day in and day out, my son’s language studies were over.
While this made me sad, it didn’t take me long to realize I was trying to live vicariously through my son. I wanted to be fluent in Spanish, and I thought this would finally be my chance. You see, I’ve always wanted to live abroad. When I was in high school, I was an exchange student to Japan and lived in Tokyo for a brief period of time. This was an amazing experience, and I knew I wanted to have other international experiences in the future.
However, as much as I had hoped to live abroad, I married someone who didn’t share this same sense of adventure. He had other plans. After I realized this, I kept my wanderlust to myself and lived happily in Provo for 20 years.
wan·der·lust | \ ‘wändər,ləst\
1. A deep, uncontrollable desire to wander or travel and explore the world
Well, now that I’m single and my kids are almost all out of the house, realizing my dream of living abroad is a little more doable. Since I already know a little Spanish, I think it makes the most sense to some day live in a Spanish-speaking country.
So, as I was making my List of 50 Things, I decided to add learning Spanish to my List, and this is how it became #17. So, in honor of my 100th straight day of learning Spanish, I’m writing this blog post. Although I’m not great at Spanish (yet), I’m consistent!
When I first started learning Spanish, I started with Rosetta Stone due to my brother giving me a year’s worth of lessons as a gift when I graduated from MBA school. Unfortunately, there was a glitch in the program causing me to have to repeat multiple lessons, and it became a frustrating experience (but still grateful I did it).
Last year during COVID, I decided to try out Babbel. I actually loved that app until it forced me to learn Castillian Spanish and Latin American Spanish. Basically, it would give you multiple ways to say “computer,” and you had to remember each way. If I’m going to learn a language, I don’t want to also learn the many ways you can say the particular word. I just want to learn enough to get by (and be nearly fluent).
Duolingo has been my friend for these past three months. Normally, I do 35 minutes of Duolingo when I’m on the bike at the gym. On the other days, I do as much Spanish as I can fit into my day (which is often just one lesson—not 35 minutes). I try to always do it first thing in the morning after I exercise, but if I forget, Duo pops up on my phone reminding me that I haven’t completed my lesson for the day. I love that! I have to admit that there have been times when I’ve been in bed, ready to fall asleep, and I suddenly remember that I haven’t completed my lesson.
After 100 days of lessons, I feel pretty good about my progress. The other night, I was sitting with my youngest son on the couch, and we spent a half hour trying to recite all of the Spanish vocabulary words we could remember. I was amazed at how many words he remembered and how much Duolingo had reinforced words I thought I’d forgotten. We laughed over the words we both couldn’t remember and had fun trying to stump each other with words only we thought we knew.
Although my son reminds me that my pronunciation needs work, I can see that I’m making a lot of progress. I can now order fish and salad at a restaurant, greet people on the street, and shop for clothes in Spanish. “Cuanto cuesta esto?”
For the next two years, I’m planning to continue learning Spanish, so that once the abroad opportunity presents itself, I’ll be ready. Who knows, maybe I’ll love it so much that I’ll decide to study Japanese, and I’ll be off to Tokyo once again. “Kore wa ikura kakarimasu ka?”