My Spanish is getting better.
At first, I felt like it would never improve. My job is in English. My social life is in English. My home is an English speaking home. I read English on the computer. I watch English television. I listen to English music. I live an English language life.
This is not to say that I never speak with the Spanish teachers, speak Spanish at home, read Spanish, or listen to Spanish. I do and I have since arriving. But for months it felt like the Spanish I used never changed, never grew.
Then one day I had a Spanish moment: I used a word I had never used before without even thinking about it. I needed the word and there it was, coming from my mouth. I had no idea where the word has been or how it got there.
I felt wonderful for many weeks simply based on this one little moment. But then, as those weeks passed, I did not have any other Spanish moments. No surprise words but many moments without any to communicate the things I wanted–or needed–to communicate. I started once again to feel like I was standing at the bottom of the mountain.
Then I started my Spanish classes. Again. This marks the fourth time in my life I have enrolled in beginners Spanish classes. However, this time I started at level two instead of the beginning–I suppose that is a sign of progress. And for the first few weeks I was very excited. I was picking up some vocabulary and learning tenses I had never been able to access before. I felt good about myself.
After a few weeks of classes, I decided to go home and speak Spanish with Salvador. It took a long time to get him to stop speaking English, but he did. That night, I had my first expressive conversation in Spanish. I had words for everything I wanted to say, even if they weren’t as specific as the words I wanted.
For a while, I felt amazing. Then, as before, that feeling faded. I began to feel like everything I said was recycled, that I had no new words, no new ideas. I was trapped in my little, Spanish box.
Last week, I had a conference with a parent. She spoke no English and my translator was busy. So I started in Spanish. At first I was shaky, looking for words I didn’t have. But the longer it went on, the easier the words came. By the end they were rapid, comfortable, and not so horribly accented. When the conference was over, I felt amazing–I had done something I had wondered if I would ever be able to do, just six months into my time in Mexico.
I’m sure the pattern will repeat many times before I am fluent. But, for now, I am still holding onto the high from my conference and looking forward to the next step in my Spanish journey.