Friday, November 5, 2010
I was out for dinner and drinks with my roommates and kept noticing myself zoning out because I was having difficulty following the conversation. I could swear my Spanish is actually worse than it was a few weeks ago because it feels like I am so often missing the words I need to articulate myself. What's going on? A few weeks ago I was positive I could understand any conversation in Spanish, and now it feels like all confusion, all the time.
I've hit that point in language learning where I feel like I'm at a plateau, where it feels like my spanish isn't improving at all even though I'm using it all the time and goodness knows I'm immersed. The tricky thing about this period is that although it's the easiest time to get discouraged and retreat into an expat circle where all you use is English (or the Spanish that everyone understands because, claro, we're all English speakers first), I really believe it's also the time when the most growth happens.
It's only at this point, having lived here for a month with Spanish (ok, and Basque, but that doesn't help me a lot)-speaking roommates and encountering new situations, that I'm becoming unable to coast by on my casual conversation abilities. It's not all "hello, nice to meet you" and "excuse me while I order this pintxo"-type conversations anymore, and I'm noticing my weaknesses because I'm being challenged more.
In retrospect, of course, this is really the best stage someone wanting to improve a foreign language could hope for. Every time I become frustrated that I can't communicate a certain story or view the way I want to to my friends and/or roommates, I learn in retrospect what I was missing.
Leaving me at once frustrated and hopeful every time I open my mouth and my second language comes out.