Today was my first Spanish class since before Christmas. Our teacher normally comes four days a week, for two-hour lessons. We have some class time together, and some individually. Obviously, Rusty can’t participate right now, and probably won’t be able to until at least mid-February, but I asked her to come two days a week just for me right now.
Language learning for me has been a long, sometimes agonizingly slow process, with lots of ups and downs. I feel like I am at the point now with Spanish where I have achieved a sort of “false fluency.” In other words, it’s easy for me to fool others who don’t speak Spanish at all into thinking that I speak very well. I can also, so long as I don’t speak too much, pass myself off to Ecuadorians as someone who has a good handle on their language. (But if I open my mouth too wide or too long, well, that’s a different story!)
I suppose, in comparison to a person who can’t have even the most basic of conversations, I am fluent. I can make my needs known, understand most of what is said to me and respond appropriately, even translate for non-Spanish speakers if required. But I still have so far to go to achieve the level of fluency I would like to have, the kind that allows me to engage in discussions beyond the weather and one’s family, to make jokes and understand humor, to speak “off the cuff,” to teach others the things of God. Basically, to use the Spanish language in the way I use English, articulately and gracefully, not like the bumbling idiot I feel like I always make myself out to be every time I open my mouth!
I know this kind of fluency takes time. If I ever get there at all, it will take years. It’s a process, and it really can’t be rushed, no matter how badly I want it right now! Survival Spanish can be learned in a two-week crash course, but to master the language in the way I want? Years of study, practice, slow progress, practice, lots of mistakes, oh, and practice, practice, practice.