Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spain, Day 1 - Jet Lag

When we got off the plane I was worried about what I'd say to Clara's parents. On my first trip to Spain I spoke no Spanish, and they didn't expect me to. On my second trip, I remember the first thing Clara's mom asked me was if I had studied any Spanish, which I had to regretfully say I hadn't.

This time I expect her to ask me the same thing again, but that didn't happen. I remember just saying "Hola" and then something like hablo Espanol solamente un poco (I only speak Spanish a little.) which seemed to satisfy them. Then they drove us home.

Later that day we went out with Clara's brother and sister to try and beat the jet lag. We went to a very American-style mall, went shopping for a bit, and then went to a bar/cafe for a drink and a snack. The whole time I wasn't saying much. I was, of course, shy... but my excellent excuse was being tired from the jet lag.

I did have a bit of a "worst nightmare" moment, though. I excused myself at one point to go to the bathroom, but when I got there it was locked. I decided to wait outside, and while I was waiting some guy came in, pointed to the bathroom, and asked me a question in Spanish. He was rather obviously asking me if I was waiting, but instead of simply saying si or perhaps perdon, no hablo Espanol mucho (Sorry, I don't speak much Spanish.) I freaked out and just sort of grunted and walked away, as if I had to leave suddenly.

That was exactly what I didn't want to do when I was in Spain, so I thought afterwards what I should have done, and realized I probably could have said something moderately appropriate. However, as I would soon realize, this would happen quite a lot: being in a situation where you don't know what to say and then, 5 to 10 minutes later, realizing what you should have said.

This delay, I imagine, is rather normal when beginning to learn a language, and eventually I decided it was good to see it as such. Because, when you do think of what to say later, at least you thought of something, which means you have the knowledge bumping around in your head somewhere. When you realize the "problem" is, at least in some cases, a slow response time and not lack of knowledge it helps put things in perspective, at least it did for me.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Back from Spain

I got back from Spain a week ago. Needless to say my brilliant plan to update this blog each night, detailing my Spanish learning adventures during the day, didn't go so well. I was always too tired and/or preferred to spend my time interacting with people rather than sitting by myself writing. I did, however, take notes on each day, in hopes I'd write the entries when I got back. And here I am.

I took a lot of pictures in Spain, more than I've ever taken really. I'll being using some of them in the coming posts, but you can view the whole set here.

How It Went...

In the previous post I mentioned several "trouble phrases", Spanish phrases I planned to say any time I didn't know what to say, as well as several goals for the trip, things I wanted to say or do in Spanish at least once before I left. The phrases were:
  • Perdoname, no te entiendo. / Perdona, no te he entendido.
  • No recuerdo la palabra.
  • Puedes repetir por favor?
  • Estoy trantando.
  • Como se pronucia esto/eso?
  • No conozco la respuesta?
  • Que significa... (something)?
  • Tengo una pregunta.
  • Puedes hablar mas lento?
Ha! I didn't use any of these. What I found myself saying most was sort of a variation on the first one - Entiendo solamente un poco - which means "I only understand a little bit". For emphasis I often repeated it with un poquito meaning "very little".

I quickly found I didn't really know enough to maintain even a simple conversation, so most of the time it was simple phrases, requests, affirmatives, etc. But when I ran into problems telling people I didn't understand much seemed to be all that was necessary.

And I guess I did actually say que significa... a lot (as in Que significa "caliente"? meaning "What does "caliente" mean?) when I didn't know a word. But it was usually a one-off, and not in the context of an on-going conversation. Also, I did say Como se dice... a lot, mostly while pointing and adding esto. Como se dice esto? (How do you call this?) That's a good one. Brings back the fun of being a three-year-old.

As for the goals, I did manage to do a lot of them. They were:
  1. be able to tell Clara's parents when I meet them that I actually did learn some Spanish this time
  2. be able to talk with Clara's mom about food
  3. be able to buy bus/train tickets going to and from Madrid
  4. be able to order food on my own
  5. be able to answer some simple questions Clara's friends might ask me
One, two, and three ended up working out pretty well. Three and four not so much, but I felt good enough about the first three I wasn't terribly bothered by this. I won't go much into these here, since they will come up in the following posts where I explain what happened on each day of the trip.