Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Learning Spanish

I haven't written much about this here, but most of you reading this have heard me discuss my efforts to learn Spanish over the past year and a half. They have certainly been interesting.

First, a little background. I took a few months of Italian in junior high, then two years of Latin, then a lot of German in high school and college, to the point where I was really starting to get it. I even took a literature class for a semester beyond the language requirement. But then I got busy and that was the end of that. No further language study until I ran off to France in 1994 (a long story best saved for another time), with virtually no French. In six months of living there and taking a community college class I went from nothing to an introvert at a dinner party. It was where I learned how to function when you don't have much command of the language, which is at least as important as learning the target language itself.

When I came back to the states I tried to hold on to my French and to be bolder about speaking the little Spanish I did know. The French faded fast but teaching in Humboldt Park helped me get a little braver about saying basic things in Spanish. Later I took a beginner class in hopes it would push me to learn, but still to no avail.

Part of the reason I moved to this neighborhood was that I've learned I won't internalize a language unless I'm forced to. I do feel more pressure to learn Spanish than I ever have, but it's still easy to wimp out and let the kids translate. I read a lot--the papers, the local literary journal (a bit--it's a little advanced in its language for my understanding)--but I'm still pretty shy about speaking.

From April through December I was getting lessons with a tutor, which helped a great deal, but that got very complicated and I decided it was time to take a real live class. So now I'm studying downtown after work, at the extension campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. They think I'm a genius because I can talk, however halfassedly. And they see I have a head for grammar. So they've put me in a class that is pretty advanced, and in the first two weeks I've been hit with two new verb tenses I'm having trouble assimilating. Whew!

Here's the university's web site. Its Spanish acronym is UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico): (in English, about their Chicago campus)

In Spanish--main site:

More later...back to work...

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