There are so many things that go into learning a language. Knowing the words is only a fraction of the process, there are things involving the culture, things involving your voice and pronunciation, and there are things involving the phonetics of it all. Learning Spanish has been one of the hardest, most challenging, and longest quests I have ever started in my life. On the other hand it has also been one of the most rewarding, gratifying, and magnanimous adventures. There are always ups and downs to any major project one takes on, and one of the most defeating things that can make you or break you is confidence. I have tried many different forms of learning from structural class rooms, to unstructured homes, to full emersion and with each I have brought a little knowledge to help further my journey. There is no right or wrong, there are some methods that work well for some and there are other methods that work better for others, but the underlining theme seems to be that you get an equal return on the amount that you put into it. This being said I will explain a little bit about my journey and how I came to this life long quest.
It all started back when I was in first grade, I had just switched schools, which was a hard thing to handle. I went from a public kindergarten to a private elementary school. That year was the first year the school started teaching Spanish as a requirement for the students, something was extremely uncommon and wasteful twenty years ago, but now is looked at as asset or quality skill set. It was an extremely difficult task to try to teach a group of youngsters another language for many reasons. We did know the English language very well, we were all very young and high energy, and there were not very many of us that wanted to learn. I hated that I was forced to do this, not because it was a bad thing, but because it was challenging and I didn’t really like English classes much either. Looking back on it now, this experience was the foundation of a structure I would continue to build for the next 20 years.
After I graduated high school, I slowly lost touch with my Spanish. I was not practicing or taking classes and had little interest in continuing. It had been almost five years since my last Spanish class. I still remembered basic vocabulary, conjugating, and counting, but that was about as far as it went. I was in my second year of college and was really starting to think about what I was going to do with my life. I had chosen to start a new journey in business, which was wonderful; but I was envious of some friends who were continuing with their Spanish education, many were double majoring with business. The more I thought about it the better I could see the benefits of being bilingual. So, I went for it! I enrolled in my first college Spanish class. I was excited to get back to my Spanish; however, I had no idea it was going to be as challenging as it was.
The first couple of semesters were pretty painless and not very challenging. I felt I was beginning to climb a huge mountain, working my way through the foothills was building my confidence. There were definitely struggles along the way, but they were minor and with practice were easy to overcome. Then, as I know it would, the first hard climb came. I was in my fifth semester in college and up until this point all of my classes had been taught in English with American professors. This particular class was a turning point for me. It took my Spanish from a mere interest to an internalized part of who I was and who I was going to become. My new professor was a graduate student from Columbia, Mauricio was his name, he had a contagious energy that be brought to every class and we all loved him. The class was taught mostly in Spanish and was extremely challenging; however, I loved every minute of it and the improvement in my skills proved it! Mauricio was full of passion and love for his native language. He was also wildly expressive in the way he talked, making it easier to understand him. I had not experienced anything like this before. His style of teaching made the classes more fun. He captured our attention and held onto it all through the class. Through Mauricio’s classes, Spanish became a larger part of my life and I began planning a study abroad trip to Ecuador, to learn even more! Mauricio’s class only lasted five months and unfortunately I never had Mauricio as a professor again, but he left a lasting impression on my life that I can never fully thank him for.
This was only the tip of the iceberg; all this time we were merely in the foothills of our grand journey to the peak of the mountain. Spanish has become more than a hobby, it is a passion and in ways has begun to define who I want to be in the future. Today, I am very grateful to my school, they forced me to do something that was challenging and uncomfortable so I could experience more at a young age. As I sit and write this, I know I am not even close to the peak of the mountain. However, I will never stop climbing, Now, I am looking forward to the many hurtles I will inevitably jump over. The journey has not been a stand still. I have gone from the foothills to base camp, and from base camp to a higher altitude. The best it yet to come.