In the US there is a saying ‘Being thrown into the deep end of the pool’. This means that a person goes from being on solid ground, to being in over their head with whatever thing they might be confronting. This could entail being expected to do something that you’ve never done before, as though you’re an expert. Its an apt expression since it often will include panic and hyper-ventilation. Both of these things we experienced in full today in our Immersion Total experience.
We went to our first Spanish class at our local ‘Escuela de Espanol‘ and I can say that we’ve not just been thrown into the deep end of the pool, but the ocean! Holy mackerel, we are lost. I would have shouted ‘Ayuda! Me estoy ahogando en espanol!’ (Help! I’m drowning in Spanish!!) if only I’d known how to say it. And I am drowning in Spanish. And so is Jeff. No es claro. And Jeff’s innate need for understanding the ‘Why’ of anything and everything is wildly unsatisfied because the instructor will not speak to us in English – at all.
We got there early and the room was set up in a circle. We have people from Holland, UK, Ukraine, Libya, Russia, Italy and us, in this class. The instructor came in and immediately wrote a few Spanish sentences on the board, began talking rapidly, and then asked each of us to say what she had written, but modify it for ourselves. It’s was our names, home country, what we like and what we don’t like. I stumbled through it and so did Jeff.
Then she wrote some other things on the board that I recognized from +Babbel and Rosetta Stone, and it started to make a little sense. I looked over at Jeff and he had that ‘Whaaat The…??!!’ look on his face as the instructor asked him question after question and he had zero clue what she was talking about. Other people were confused too. The guy from the Ukraine had already checked out.
We did some work sheets and then we had to say our letters to each other. My vocabulary isn’t bad but my pronunciation could use some work. Jeff’s pronunciation is really good, but he has a hard time teasing out what our instructor is saying. He began to correct my recitation of the alphabet. This is good, because for about a week now I’ve repeated everything he says in the limited Spanish I have, and I think it’s been making him a little crazy. Revenge is a dish best served cold, I guess.
On Saturday, he asked me ‘Where are the bikes we’re picking up?’ referring to what bike share station we’re going to.
‘You mean ‘Donde esta Valenbisi biccecletas‘ we’re picking up?’
Sure, it’s incomplete pigeon Spanish, but it’s how I’m learning and it’s helping me to more quickly conjure up what I might need to say to someone who doesn’t speak Ingles. When I do, I usually get ‘The Look’ but oh, well.
After our 2 hour lesson today, we left the school knowing we will be back there for two more hours every morning this week. Jeff’s head was spinning. We had learned to words for thief and plumber. Kind of obscure since I am perpetually trying to avoid both of those things in my life.
‘I didn’t understand half of that.’ he grumbled.
‘Yeah, me neither, but that’s why we’re taking the class. If we understood it, we wouldn’t need it. We just have to go with the flow. It’s not a college class and we’re doing it for ourselves. Our future livelihoods won’t depend on it.’
I got a ‘Hrmpft’ as a response.
We got home and had a little lunch. We’ve signed up for 3 weeks of intensive classes and I think Jeff is counting down the hours. But in the end, we’ll be glad we did this and the school we chose is flexible if we need to continue or go back for additional instruction – which is almost guaranteed.
But first we need to get through the initial part. The part where we surrender to the fact that we don’t understand, and that the goal isn’t getting it perfect, just good enough. ‘No comprende‘ is going my constant companion in this course and I’m OK with it. Maybe we need to drown a little, so we’ll start kicking and head for the surface so we can breath the air in Valencia. Spanish air. It will not be easy, but I know with time it won’t be as ‘Dificil‘ as it was today.