Oh wait, let me try that again. ¡Hola! There, that’s better. Don’t mind me…the beginning of a new year, as always, has me thinking about personal goals. What are your personal goals? Weight loss? Getting in shape? Finishing a novel or two? Well one of mine probably obvious to you by now. Quiero mejorar mi español. That is, I want to improve my Spanish. Why, you ask? For professional growth? To communicate with Spanish-speaking acquaintances? Just for the heck of it?
Well…sort of. All of these reasons are true, to some extent. But to tell you the truth, the biggest reason is that becoming a fluent Spanish speaker has been a goal of mine since I was nine years old. Yes, this is totally true. That is when I discovered the book that made me fall in love with a foreign language: The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary in Spanish. .When I opened up the cover of the book, the very first words I read were:
¿Habla su gato español? Si no, por qué no?
Those were the magic words. I was hooked on a language spoken by no one in my family. I was determined to speak it. I studied my dictionary for many days, practicing on my family, on kids at school (who already thought I was weird, so it did not phase them). I even met an elderly Mexican woman on the public bus I rode to school each day, who seemed surprised and pleased when I began to greet her each morning with, “Hola, Señora. ¿Cómo está usted?” I went to the public library, where I devoured books like Fun With Spanish and More Fun With Spanish. To be fair, I also dabbled in Fun With German, Fun with French, and Fun with Italian. But none of these languages held the same magic for me as español.
Fast forward twenty-seven years, and I am ashamed to say that I am still not fluent in Spanish. Oh, I can communicate a little, and reading it is easy enough. But there is a huge roadblock for me. The problem is that I am shy. Seriously shy. So much so, that even if I have the rare opportunity to be around other people who speak Spanish, I find myself tongue-tied. Suddenly, I cannot remember much more Spanish than I learned from Dr. Seuss (Aarón es un caimán. Aarón vuela hacia la luna.) Clearly, that does not help one to communicate with actual people. Even worse than being shy, I am also kind of neurotic about making mistakes. I hate when I say the wrong thing in Spanish, only to realize it later, when it is too late to correct it. Ack! Now, perhaps you can understand why I am still not fluent in Spanish.
But this is a new year, and a chance to revisit old goals. Who knows? Perhaps by the end of 2012, I will be able to prattle on in Spanish just as easily as English. Maybe I will become such a confident speaker, that I will march right up to a group of Spanish-speaking acquaintances and jump into the conversation without hesitation. Okay, maybe not. But at the very least, I could march right up to them, look someone in the eye, and ask, “¿Habla su gato español?“
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!