Tuesday, November 29, 2005

speaking and understanding

On Saturday I spent the night at Kate’s home. She invited me over so that I wouldn’t be alone of November 26th, the date of mom’s death 11 years ago. It was a kind gesture. Kate lives with her husband, Enrique, and her Brazilian friend Lillian. Lillian is teaching Portugeuse to Kate and Enrique, and Kate and Enrique are (kinda) teaching Lillian Spanish, though she already speaks well. So it was a night was a rich lingual exchange.

I’ve found that there are a number of obstacles getting in the way of my participation when I’m in groups of more than one person and the dominant spoken language is Spanish.
1) Unlike in class, when every direction or phrase is repeated, in conversation, people usually say things only once.
2) As I try to process the words, and I get stuck trying to remember the meaning of one word, I do not listen to the rest of the sentence and therefore, lose a lot of meaning. Multitasking is too difficult.
3) By the time I’ve formulated, in my head, what I’m going to say, the conversation has moved on and my thoughts are irrrelevent. I struggle mightily when I speak w/o rehearsing.
4) Depending on the size and attitude of the group, I’m more willing to take a risk. When I am not confident, my tendency is to shut up. I do not want to take risks.
5) Often, in conversation here, there seems to be lots of maneuvering to make your comment, the conversation is quick and the content is rich. I’m not always willing or able to try and butt my way into a conversation just to say something that I don’t feel confident about. That is sometimes the case in NY as well. In conversation, you want to be a quick and witty participant, and it’s not worth participating if you don’t offer something juicy to help move the conversation along.

One curious part is that when someone says something funny, that I don’t understand, and someone else tries to explain it in english, it’s no longer funny without the timing, the humor is lost. I usually chuckle politely and offer a quick acknowledging comment, then the conversation moves on. It’s a continuously humbling experience.

NEXT: last night, Monday, after a culture class about Flamenco, a group of us went for a cerveza. 1 turned to 2 and 2 turned to 3 and by that time we were hungry. I took 3 others to a restaurant in my neighborhood. They called me “Jefe” boss, because I was in charge of where to go and I spoke to the waiter and ordered. However, thorough the whole night, we spoke Spanish. A full 4 hours only reverting to English when the idea was too complicated. I realized that I feel much more comfortable taking risks and understanding other Spanish learners. However it was nights like last one, that give me more confidence for speaking with non language learners. I dreamt in Spanish. Yet in class today I knocked my head with my hands because I had so much trouble going between the passed indefinite and the passed imperfect.

From the perspective of speaking and understanding, I have good days and bad.


Post a Comment

<< Home