I’m up in the air again. My English car now has a spread-sheet of its own to manage its complex movements. This time, as I flew into Gatwick, the car was left in Sussex ready for me to pick up after a night at Jane’s house. After my brief stay in Dorset I left it at Bristol airport where a friend will pick it up and use it during my absence, leaving it in turn in Bournemouth or wherever the spread-sheet dictates for the next time I need it. Car-sharing is the convenient and environmentally-sound solution for someone with A Foot in Two Campos.
Eight weeks at home in Colmenar and then a week back in Dorset to see friends and start getting from banks the details I will need for my gestor to complete my Spanish tax forms in January. The flights are no hassle. It’s just like a bus, though very NON-environmentally-sound and I feel guilty enough to try to reduce the number of flights. The bag sits ready with the keys and papers necessary for the place to which I am travelling. Just add the iPad and I’m good to go.
In the Spanish class I go to at Axalingua, we discussed how we prepare for journeys. After chatting in pairs about holidays, we then had to describe the other person’s characteristics, as evidenced by their travel preferences. My colleague described me as “adventurous” and “independent” (because I had just got back from a couple of days in the Alpujarra mountains), and I described her as “organised” and “well-prepared” (because she always packs a travel-iron, having checked on the internet whether one is provided).
We had to present “estratégias” to the class for improving our Spanish. Mine included spending a minimum of two hours per day in settings surrounded only by Spanish people, speaking only Spanish. This is a target I usually exceed, often three-fold, yet it met with scepticism and a degree of ridicule from most of the group. “I couldn’t find another two hours a day” scoffed one member, “I’m busy enough as it is”. Of course she is right. Nobody can find two more hours in a day, however hard we try. But this is to miss the point entirely. Speaking Spanish and spending time with Spanish people is not some kind of extra “task” in the day – it needs to be the norm, every day, if I am to continue to expand my vocabulary and become more relaxed with the language month by month. It is about spending time in the street chatting with friends and neighbours. It’s about attending intercambio groups. It’s about tapas in a bar chatting to a stranger about something in the Spanish newspapers. It’s about a long walk in the mountains speaking only Spanish. It’s about two hours in the hairdresser’s chair while she puts more stripes in my hair. It’s about talking to villagers while waiting at the bus stop. Best of all, it’s about a long relaxed coffee (or two) with a good friend discussing politics, life, cultural norms and differences, or just our plans for the weekend. Not “extra” time, just the day-to-day activities of village life, in Spanish, every day. Poco a poco. Paso a paso.
In England the estratégia was harder to implement. Skyping two Spanish friends was a big help. Spotting a paella stall in Wiltshire market-place threw up a random and unexpected opportunity to engage Spanish food-producers in conversation (though the Valenciana was a struggle). But it was only a week away, and the focus was on spending time with good friends. I admit to being extremely motivated about learning and improving Spanish (the word obsessive has been mentioned!), but some things in life are more important than the estratégia. Not many, but friends definitely come first. Hasta pronto, amigos.
© Tamara Essex 2013
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT
If you’re helping a Spanish-speaker with their English in return for their help with your Spanish, you’re probably hitting the same pronunciation problems I am with Jose and Paco. Top problem was their pronunciation of the letter Y at the start of yellow, young and youth. Get them to say the Spanish word for ice – hielo – and although it doesn’t begin with a Y, the sound at the start is the same sound they need to begin yellow, young and youth with. Get them to say “hielo hielo y- y- y- y- young youth yellow”, which should shift them from starting those words with a J sound.