A post from my draft blog, written a few months ago…
It is now four-and-a-half months since I emigrated to Spain. I had learnt a little beginners Spanish in Ecuador hace quatro anos and had since taken some classes during previous visits to Barcelona. This is where I learned that my Spanish school, Don Quixote, was run by those Dan Brown badguys, the Opus Dei (great, I love giving my money to Catholic overlords.)
My initial jump in language acquisition was exciting, and in mid October I walked with a high head and a puffed chest, soaking in the constant shopkeep commentary on how good my Spanish was.
I had a second jump in my language skills at the end of the year, stumbling across one of the tried and true tips for increasing Spanish skills via immersion: having a local romance. The desire to communicate with my boyfriend more effectively sent me back to my books and had me practicing daily to ensure I could make the most of our weekends together.
We talked throughout the week on whatsapp, and I would read over the texts three or four times afterwards until I was sure I understood every word and had picked up on the aboutface language structure which has subjects pointing at objects that they are doing something to, or the other way around, whichever isn’t the English structure anyway.
Now that I am writing ferociously for up to ten hours a day in my birth tongue, I feel like my Spanish language skills are slipping again. I am blocking out a half-hour-a-day for learning, and returning to my discipline of listening to the Spanish news daily (I read the paper here and am so relieved I have found a worthy Sydney Morning Herald replacement in el periodico).
Bernard Sebastian Kamps, self-published author of The Word Brain: A Short Guide to Fast Language Learning, explains that you need about 1,500 to 2,000 hours of “intense” listening to a language in order to “achieve semi-perfect sequencing abilities”. Sequencing refers to the ability to differentiate a garble of foreign language into syllables and likely sets of words, a skill that is still beyond me and my biggest struggle here in Barcelona.
It doesn’t help that the accents here in this cosmopolitan, international metropolis are an estofado lengua. I can sort-of get the basic Catalonian Spanish accent but I am surrounded by Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian, German, Italian and non-Catalonian brands of Spanish. In my language classes, the CDs where a Venezualan would speak Spanish? Forget it. It was like they were speaking face down into a pillow while a microphone hovered somewhere overhead, near a window with heavy traffic just outside.
And there are nuances here in Barca to get used to. There is an extended aaaarrr that is used in the shops but not so much on the street: Buenaaaarrrsss when you enter, Graci-aaaaarrrrrssss when you leave. Or an abbreviated see you next time ‘ta luego. Or more like one word ‘taluego.
Venga can go both ways. It is either exaggerated, given it is an imperative after all, and said with a urgent doubletalk: ¡Venga Venga! Or it can be said as a dribble, mumbled half way between the mobile phone, and the pocket the mobile is heading back to: “Venga…”. Like an obligatory sign off that you are not too fussed on anyone hearing.
Writing all day in English is inspiring, though, and triggers my joy with word games and puns (hi Elisabet!). Like yesterday’s post, the trick again is discipline (urgh, I am so austere, it’s the only solution I see to anything). I was thinking of maybe using the news to source article ideas as a way to synergize and maintain my interest. When you see a new page in the menu here with a version of this blog in castellano, you will know I am getting closer.