Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Todavía no hablo español... Pero he intentado!

So last night was my first attempt at a conversation in Spanish.  I ventured into the world of italki which connects people who want to speak one-another's languages.  When you sign up you define which languages you speak and your fluency with each.  Then you can either chat with random people who are fluent in the language you want while trying to learn the one you speak (free), or connect with either a tutor or a teacher -- both of which are paid.  Full disclosure -- if you do decide it's something you're interested in, please use that link cause I'll get credits :)

Being a native English speaker is definitely a plus in this environment as a disproportionate number of people are looking to improve their English, which ups the pool of people to talk to significantly.  And while I'm actually super over-qualified to be in this pool (and have zero inclination to be in the paid category) I figure that might help balance out the patience required to speak with somebody who is brand new to the language.

Since going into this, my sole Spanish conversation to this point had included "hello", "please", "thank you", and asking for a drink, I decided that perhaps I should start in the paid category, preferably with someone who works with beginners.  For tutors and teachers there are options to either book a lesson or to just chat now.  So I found someone who was online at the moment, claimed a high fluency in English, and whose profile had several references to patience and went with that.  When you ask to connect, you can include a message -- so I included that I had been using DuoLingo but had never spoken Spanish at all.  Complete beginner.  He said that was fine and could start in two minutes.

Sweet.  Or not.  As those who know me IRL will be aware, small talk is far from my favourite thing.  I am also not particularly patient with myself when I'm learning something new.   All the patience in the world for students and animals; applying it to myself? More of a challenge!  At work the latest thing is to "fail fast" in order to improve.  I'm all kinds of good at supporting it there.  Less in developing my own skills.  I want to be good at it *now*.  Sheesh.  But then I read something in the multitude of language learning stuff I've come across in the last little while that made this point (paraphrasing cause I've long since lost the article but this stuck with me): "you have to let yourself be that guy.  Be the one who says "me happy" and "I go school" because the ones who are willing to start there, are the ones who will learn to speak fluently.  And several articles that say start talking on day one.  Literally.  As soon as you can possibly put together a few words.  Those two together pushed me into this.

And you know what?  I am, theoretically, okay with being that person.  As long as the person I'm talking to knows what they're getting into ;)   Hence the intro.  So we connect and after we get past hi, how are you (yeah, I know that one!) he tells me he'll ask the question in Spanish, I should answer in English, and then he'll tell me how to say my answer in Spanish.   Ummmm ok...  I guess.  But I was so disappointed.  The whole point was for me to figure out how to say it myself.   So we did this a bit and it was okay -- less good than it could've been as his English was not as brilliant as advertised and several times he was unable to provide the Spanish translation.

And as we're doing this he told me I shouldn't do any of the chats, I just sign up for lessons.  And I should be sure to tell them I was brand new.  Awesome. So positive.  And I'm pretty sure I word for word did that.  And the whole point is I want to learn to chat.  I'm enrolled in one online uni course and play with DuoLingo daily -- my reading comprehension is way beyond my listening and my vocabulary is growing rapidly but I can't actually speak it.  (Squirrel! - anybody who's bored and likes to learn stuff:  Future Learn Open University -  eclectic combination of free university level courses)

Anyways - I did eventually convince him to let me try some sentences myself and quickly learned a few things.  While I'm *theoretically* okay with being brand new at something, I'm not actually okay with butchering somebody's language in front of a native speaker, even one who is being paid to help me.  I'd get half way through a sentence and actually have to force myself to continue.  Less fun.  Also, it is So. Pain-fully. Slow.   You know how choppy that sentence was when you read it in your head?  Multiply by 100.  By the time I figure out what I want to say, how I'm going to say it with the words in my limited vocabulary, and then what order to put those words in, there are very long pauses between said words while I'm speaking.  My mitigation plan for that for next time will be to have a bunch of random small-talk type phrases written out ahead of time that I can use as need be ;)   And worst of all, even when all the stars align and unicorns fart glitter and I do manage to get all the words out in the right order, I'm still not understood.  How do I know this?  Because when he wrote back to me what I "should have said" it was exactly what I'd been trying to say.   So I had everything right but was either too choppy or my pronunciation was too horrible to be understood.  As negative as it sounds though, that part was actually encouraging to me.  It shows I *am* learning through my other channels, and clearly have a need for this one too.  Since, well, the whole goal is conversational Spanish and last I checked speaking was a key component of that *g*   But perhaps with a different tutor ;)

The one thing this tutor did do that I liked was kept a text chat window open as well and when I didn't understand something he said or when he was trying to get me to repeat something back to him, he'd type it.  Since my reading skills currently far surpass either my listening or my writing skills, this was all kinds of useful for clarification.

So yeah, I currently have a fairly high level of anxiety about trying it again.  But anxiety and excitement are closely related and I suspect if I can connect with the right tutor it could easily switch and be an interesting challenge.  Would ideally like to get to the point where I can hold enough of a conversation to flip to the free area :)   But lessons are not at all expensive (ranging from about $2-$20 an hour -- and the top end of that is for actual qualified professional language teachers).   Individuals set their own rates and they're all posted and paid through italki so all good there.

Ah well -- webinar tomorrow about learning through music, which I'm currently *really* enjoying -- far more than I expected.  So maybe try the speaking idea again on Friday...

In completely unrelated news -- had *so* much fun at dinner with the girls last weekend.  Dinner that was about six hours of chatting.  Came home so relaxed and happy.  I feel that should happen more often :)   Really looking forward to the Royal now!


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