Sarita Learns Spanish: Try 2

Foreign Service LifePeru
June 1, 2012

Today I’d like to tell you a little story.

Once upon a time there was a girl named Sarita.  Sarita began taking Spanish as a freshman in High School.  She initially loved the subject, dreaming about all the amazing things (travel, new friends, unique experiences, etc) that would be available to her with another language at her disposal.  One thing I should mention about Sarita is that she had a wee bit of a perfection problem.  And while this problem affected many areas of her life, it especially inhibited her learning of Spanish.

Each year as she continued on in Spanish, Sarita became more and more paralyzed by making errors.  The beginner’s mindset she had her first year had all but disappeared and a good class day was one when she had to speak as little Spanish aloud as possible (therefore limiting the amount of time she spent looking stupid).  As you might imagine, she didn’t improve much, since she never practiced.  She did however ROCK at memorizing vocab words.

When Sarita completed her Spanish requirement at the end of her first semester in College she breathed a sigh of relief and thought arrogantly to herself, “Why bother learning a language.  Everyone learns English anyways.”  Secretly, she was thrilled to leave that behind her and stop feeling so incompetent everyday.  She made up a story about how her brain wasn’t good at learning languages and used that as her excuse every time someone asked how many languages she spoke.  It wasn’t until many, many years later that Sarita would acknowledge that quitting Spanish was one of the biggest regrets of her life.

As with many things in life, Sarita had a chance to redeem herself.  13 years later, the Universe plopped her smack dab in the middle of a Spanish-speaking country to live for 2 years.  Her old fears of incompetency crept in and for a moment she hoped that she’d be able to sneak by with just English.  It only took a few interactions to see how impossible that would be.

And so Sarita came to another critical decision point.  Dids she hide out in her house, speak as little as possible and forego having interesting interactions with locals OR did she throw herself out there fearlessly and make grandiose failures on a daily basis in service of her learning?  As you might guess, Sarita doesn’t make the same mistake twice.  She’s going big or going home!

Stay tuned for her eric failures (and successes) as she starts her 2 HOUR DAILY SPANISH CLASSES (Yes folks, your read that right, five whole days a week) next Monday and puts her Spanish into practice.  It’s about damn time we conquered this fear!

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8 Comments

  1. Joyce says:

    Sarah, I’m a Virgo who all happen to be perfectionists. So you can imagine how hard it has been for me all these years. However, one day I said that I could never be perfect and not to sweat the small things so much. Have to remind myself lots of times about this but it seems to work. A Dr. asked me one time if was OCD and I said no, but I could be. Just do the best you can and everything works out in the end. No one cares if you speak Spanish wrong or make mistakes. Everyone LOVES to help you out with your language. In fact, it makes them feel good. Keep up the good work Sarita and don’t be so hard on yourself. Love you.

  2. Erin says:

    Muy querida Sarita,

    Just keep practicing. The important thing is to communicate, not to communicate perfectly. Even native speakers make mistakes regularly (I know, that only adds to the confusion when you’re learning a new language!), but the truth is that if native speakers can’t speak their own language perfectly, you shouldn’t worry about achieving that objective either.

    Before you know it, you’ll be chatting away in Spanish without even thinking twice about it…and will temporarily forget some of your English! (Or will use Spanish construction for your sentences in English, e.g. “He’s the husband of my sister.”)

    Muy buena suerte, amiga!

    Un abrazo,
    Erin

  3. Nomads By Nature says:

    Don’t forget the power of music in your learning! Whether kid songs or fun aerobic salsa dancing — music can help enforce grammar construction and verb tenses. Two hours a day is awesome and will be a great step off to the other 22 of fearless adventuring! Tu vas a brillar!!

  4. brenda hudalla says:

    You can do it, Sarita!

  5. Sarah Novak says:

    What’s this 22 of fearless adventuring you’re referring to??

  6. Sarah Novak says:

    Thanks Erin, you’re definitely inspiration that it can be done! XOXO

  7. Evelyn says:

    It’s a huge commitment to do an immersion but you won’t regret it. I did a one month French immersion in January to rehabilitate and improve my high school French. It was hard work but worth it and I was amazed, with the discipline of speaking for 3 hours a day, how quickly my French improved. Enjoy it!!

  8. Sarah Novak says:

    Thanks, I’m already seeing a dramatic rise in my confidence with the language. It’s really all about investing the time and being willing to make a fool of yourself!

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