Imagine your first day of school, way back, the first day of first grade! I don’t remember a lot about that day, but I do know one thing for sure; learning Spanish was definitely not on my mind. Luckily, I attended a very small private school. They did things a little differently, in my opinion, they did it better. I started learning Spanish in the first grade, I didn’t know why we were learning this stuff, I didn’t see the value in it at all and, if I am being honest, I really didn’t like it. I remember sitting in our classroom, trying to figure out why they were chopping apart the words and adding other parts on, it was so confusing to me and seemed completely irrelevant in the mind of a seven year old. In that first year, learning Spanish seemed to be an endless journey, it was exhausting and I was unable to see any light at the end of the tunnel….Now, finally able to see some light, I have come to learn, the trick to ending all great journeys is to start!
Learning how to conjugate verbs was a difficult concept and I struggled a lot with trying to relate it back to English. Of course, the fact that I struggled with English grammar probably didn’t help the cause much either. Verbs, nouns, pronouns and sentence structures were not things that came easily to me in the first grade. I knew how to speak of course, I spent the first seven years of my life learning English from my parents and the people around me, but I didn’t spend a lot of time figuring out why words were placed the way they were until I took my first English class. The unique thing about my school was that I was learning English grammar while I learned Spanish grammar. While very frustrating at the time, looking back now, I think this helped me a lot with both languages.
I was definitely not alone in my struggles; all the students struggled with learning Spanish. Growing up in a very small town, we never heard anything but English, it was all so new to us. The teachers started by flooding our brains with new vocabulary words. Everything was taught in themes, to make it easier for us to remember. The chapters about food were always my favorite!
There were so many days I thought this was stupid and dumb (as I kid, I had a much smaller vocabulary) it was too hard! Now, I am so thankful I was able to have those difficult experiences at such a young age. The early comprehension of verb conjugation helped me greatly when I started to get more serious about my Spanish skills later on in life.
My struggles with verb conjugation were just the beginning; there have been countless more I will talk about later. The best advice I could give to anyone on a similar adventure, keep pushing and make the language a part of your daily life. When you are driving in your car, try to translate billboards in your head. When you are at the grocery store, try to name off all the produce items in Spanish. Get creative and never stop trying new things.
One of the main reasons my skills have not grown as much as I would have liked, is because there have been many periods of separation between Spanish and I. Times when I stopped trying, only to start again a few months or years later. It has been almost twenty years since I first started learning Spanish. Thankfully, I can say we have a good relationship today! I am not an expert, and I don’t think I will be for a long time, but I keep pushing forward and celebrate the small successes along the way, that is what keeps me going!