I speak English you know!


Okay, so the Barcelonan Urban Guard just came to my door (not for me btw, for my landlord) and I was fumbling with my Spanish like a drunk monkey, it was sad.

The same thing happened to me when I first arrived. I left the airport terminal without finding baggage claim and had to go through a bunch of rigmarole and walking to get back in. After going through security a second time, I tried to explain what had happened to a security guard and was stumbling and fumbling and incorrectly conjugating my words so much that he just said… wait, “I speak English.”

How embarrassing! I was a Spanish major and am doing thesis research using Spanish language primary sources, but I can’t communicate in Spanish?

My encounter with the guardsmen at my door has made me realize that this happens when I’m under stress. When I have to talk to my Catalan teacher I’m fine. When I have to talk to the lady in the grocery store, I’m fine.

I guess it’s also a function of not having been in a Spanish-speaking environment for two years, and simply being out of practice. In these few days alone, I think my comprehension has gone up significantly. And yet, if I am talking to someone who I know speaks English, I will answer them in English even if they speak to me in Spanish. Maybe it takes another week or so for the speaking to become second nature.

At any rate, I don’t like it. Who wants to sound like a bumbling idiot in times of crisis? …lol.

More importantly, as I continue the job search, it becomes more important to pin down my language skills. And I don’t like being in flux. Some people will put down fluent, even if their language skills are not “Like that” (if you only know a few words or phrases, you do not speak the language!..lol). I shy away from fluent and tend to put down proficient just to be safe … but what the heck does proficient mean?

Could I live in the country where that language is spoken? — yes
Could I carry out bank transactions and other official type stuff- yes
Can I watch movies and films in that language and know what the heck is going on—yes
Could I write a letter in that language- yes (although I will admit that my grammar can be atrocious sometimes… what’s up with every other language having masculine and feminine everything?…lol)
Could I carry on a phone conversation?— yes.

Going in and out with the level of proficiency makes it even harder to place myself. I’m pretty confident that if I’m able to make a trip to Spanish-speaking area every once in a while, I will be fine (I met a woman once who used to teach Spanish and now she doesn’t know a lick… that’s a scary thought… all those years, all that effort, for nothing).
I’m also scared about veering into Spanglish. I thought my Spanish in high school was on point, because the Latino kids would give me compliments on it. I didn’t realize that what I was speaking was an unregulated hybrid of two languages until I got to college and STRUGGLED for the first semester or so to keep English out (and still do from time to time, when I am around people who speak both… it’s so easy to pick the first word that comes to mind). I don’t want to go through that again.

Actually if there is one thing I have learned from starting Somali and Catalan this semester it’s that I’m done trying to acquire new languages. Let me just strengthen my knowledge of the ones I have and call it a day…

I guess I just need to stop stressing it. Y Ja está. (that’s it).