¿Yo habla español?

I’ve learned a lot from the Spanish language course I’ve been taking for the past month from Rosetta Stone, although I’m haven’t made much progress in learning to speak Spanish. I’ve learned that I’m a slow learner (possibly because I’m getting old), and that my competitive tendencies make it difficult for me to slow down and actually learn something new.

I thought I was a speedy learner at first, as I sailed through each level of the course, matching words to the pictures they identified, and picking the correct verbs in multiple-choice tests. I pronounced words correctly when prompted and could even write small sentences correctly after hearing them spoken a few times.

Reality finally reared its ugly head, however, when I signed up for live online sessions with instructors. During these sessions, you and the professor can only speak in Spanish, and there are several other students logged on for the course as well. When I did poorly during my first session, I thought it was a fluke, but after being the only student who flat-out did not know the answers in the second session, I knew something was wrong.

I went back to the lessons on level one, and instead of flying through them because I could easily pick the correct answer and wanted to get it right, I thought about the words and sounds, and realized there was more to each course than just a display of words to memorize. The words were carefully arranged so that comparisons could be made between them, teaching the learner patterns and how the language was used. The Spanish language, like the English language, was complicated. I realized I had been approaching it like I was playing a computer game, and I needed to stop looking at it in absolutes, and begin seeing it as it really was, a series of words and sounds that have subtle differences and are used in different ways.

Having spent many years in school learning French, I was also prepared for the possibility that Spanish might have verbs that changed in complicated ways, that there would be accent marks, and gender attached to objects and nouns. You would think this would make it easier to learn, but it did not, as French words soon began fighting with Spanish words in my head. I finally began to learn, however, as I identified my problems, and became aware of some of the words that were causing me confusion. Here are a few of them:

‘Bebe’ means ‘to drink’
‘Bebé’ means ‘a baby’

‘Yo tengo’ means ‘I have’
‘Tengo’ means ‘I have’

‘Nueve’ means ‘nine’
‘Nuevo’ means ‘new’

‘Esta’ means ‘this’
‘Está’ means ‘is’

‘Mañana’ means ‘tomorrow’ and ‘morning’

‘El’ means ‘the’ if the object is masculine
‘Él’means ‘he.’ It’s pronounced ‘el,’ which is the same as ‘elle’ for ‘she’ in French.

‘Hermano’ means ‘brother’
‘Hermana’ means ‘sister’
‘Hermoso’ means ‘lovely’

‘Qué’ means ‘what’
‘Que’ means ‘who’

Even though it is not easy for me to learn to speak Spanish, my lessons are the highlight of my day. Some of my favorite words are:

Boligrafo (pen)
Ferreteria (hardware store)
Juguetes (toys)

I love the language despite my troubles, and am pleased that I am not only learning to speak another language, I am learning about myself, and how I can improve my learning skills and enrich my life. ¡Salud!

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