Thursday, March 9, 2023

Re-Learning Spanish as an Adult

I'm not sure if I mentioned it here on the blog, but I've been practicing my Spanish lately. I'm not going's not for travel. I'm just a language nerd. I can probably thank Ritalin for this, but I literally just kept thinking "man I miss learning a language" and then...started.

I've always wanted to learn Italian, and I may still someday...but I spent 7 years of my youth studying Spanish to do nothing more than help my kids study their Spanish. And I hate that I wasted it, and also thought it might be fun to wake up a part of my brain that already exists.

And it is. What's even more fun is sharing Spanish with my kids. They know enough now to tell me a word I've forgotten (and vice versa), and we can converse in short every-day phrases and confuse the heck out of Matt. It's great. lol

It's been such an interesting experience.

Like, for one, it blows me away how different it is learning anything as an adult. They always say that your mind is a sponge when you're young and it's important to expose your developing brain to things like other languages, but things like instruction and repeated practice? Girl, this stuff rarely broke the surface. I retained nothing. (Well, not nothing, but if it wasn't immediately obvious or easy to figure out, I rarely gave more than half an F.)

Yes, yes, ding ding ding...I had ADHD. Of course this was my history. But it's more than that. My therapist and I started digging into this a little lately, and have basically determined that I was disassociated for my entire childhood and only started pulling myself out mid-high school. My memories prior to that are like looking through a hazy screen, and when I try to put myself back into that perspective, my awareness is only half there. You might argue that this has to do with my undeveloped pre-frontal cortex, but we was more than that. 

Okay WOW we're off the rails, here (my morning meds have not yet kicked in, shocker).

MY POINT IS...I thought the fact that I was taking college level Spanish in high school and nerdily attending National Foreign Language Honor Society meetings (to which I was invited based on my surprisingly good grades, which...didn't happen in any other class) meant that I must have really "gotten" it and just forgot.

Turns out, I remembered several nouns and verbs, but could not organize them into coherent phrases beyond "Donde esta mi telefono?" and "Me gusta chocolate." (Forgive my lack of formatting, I don't have the Spanish keyboard installed on this computer!)

But, practicing now with the years of attempted understanding in the background is actually helpful. Some days I'm killing it and flying through the lessons, and other days I'm like....wait, I thought I had this but I clearly do not get this. At times I wonder why I'm bothering. But then other times I feel like I could spend all day on it.

And I have a few observations so far (other than everything I just rambled at you, yes.)

  • I remember weird phrases that my teachers used to say all the time, but forgot until now. And when I hear them, I picture them sitting at their desks and I think I will forever associate certain things with them. Example, "cierra la puerta" (close the door), and "otra vez?" (again?)

  • I have the hardest time understanding when to use the articles el and la conversationally. I understand which goes with which words (with a few weird exceptions), but sometimes you use them in a phrase when you're speaking to someone else, and sometimes you don't. And the second I think I've figured it out, I get it wrong. There's got to be some rule for this, but I have not yet sussed it out.

  • I literally did not know that when you use two verbs together, you only conjugate the first one. did I make it to honors Spanish without knowing that little tidbit? Literally just picked that up a couple weeks ago. It's already like second nature, so maybe I kind of new it (sort of?) back in the day, but didn't understand it as a "rule"?

  • I can't get over how interestingly gendered the entire language is. Like, okay, we have our pronouns, too...but why are random intimate objects even gendered in Spanish? Enough so that when we use the word "the"'s different depending on what genitals that word would have if it were alive?! This often baffles me. And then I get hung up thinking how difficult modern day social discourse must be in their culture. Why are humans like this???

  • There's two verbs that mean "is"...two entirely different words. One is typically meant for temporary traits, and one used for permanent traits. But not everything follows that rule, and my brain cannot keep it straight. I'm basically always guessing, and I get it right most of the time but it's 75% luck.

  • I notice patterns that I didn't used to. Seriously, when I think back to teenage me, girl was not paying attention. There's so many patterns! Example: the Spanish words for car and expensive are one letter apart and I don't think that's a coincidence.

Anyway, I'm sure I will have like 70 bajillion more observations as I go along - I'm on day 30 of practice! Proud of myself for's definitely a fixture of my morning routine. I often do a little practice right before bed, too, and sometimes I dream in Spanish! So bizarre, but really cool.

Hablaremos pronto!

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