I have always been a goal-setter. Generally, when I set out to do something or to make something happen, it happens. Apparently this has been a part of my character since I was a wee lass. While I don't have a clear memory of my early years, my parents tell of a time when I was 5 years old and decided that I wanted to learn how to do 3 things: tie my shoes, whistle, and snap my fingers. I had set my deadline for the end of the week... or maybe by my birthday. I'm not quite sure, I think it depends on who's telling the story. Nevertheless, a self-imposed target date was established and was, needless to say, met with great success.
This same voracity for making desired events come to fruition is what has brought me, finalmente, to Latin America. I've been wanting to experience life and culture in this part of the world for years, and now here I am. And now that I am here, my new mission has made itself very apparent: Aprender español! I have never taken a Spanish class, and I often feel I could've sacrificed one of my useless years of French class to take a Spanish course. But such is life.
I have never had something that is so entirely the focus of every day, every interaction, every moment, as learning the Spanish language is for me now. That has become my goal, and the force of my desire to make it happen drives my self-education every day. I want to understand what my soccer teammates are telling me, I want to read Spanish novels, I want to express my opinions to those around me, I want to write fluidly about my day in a language other than my native one, I want to eavesdrop on phone conversations in the grocery store. I want to have a fully-functional grasp on this language. I want to not be an imcompetent gringa with only blank stares to offer to those who speak at me.
At the university (Universidad de San Francisco, Quito), I am enrolled in an intermediate Spanish class. Yes. Intermediate. There weren't enough students enrolled for a beginner course, so I enrolled for the intermediate level to see if I could catch up. I figured a course above my head was better than none at all, and I had faith in my determination to catch up. Well, I just turned in my first 2-page essay en español! Haha. Yep. I wrote a two-page analysis of a Spanish movie that we had to watch. And let me tell you... it took me forever to write! I'm sure the pages will have red pen all over them when I get the paper back from la profesora, but that's what I need. I'm excited to be thrown into such a challenge, and even though the learning process is slow and I still struggle to understand the simplest requests from people, I can feel improvement every day and that's what keeps me powering on.
The thing about this mission of mine is that it has no "Finish" line. I could work to improve my Spanish indefinitely. But I do have somewhat of a timeline, in that I plan on living here in Quito until about May, and I would like to have a confident conversational grasp of the language by the time I leave my current set-up. It is highly likely that I will continue traveling around Latin America after May, and if this is going to be the case, I would really like to feel comfortable living on my own devices in the language of the people around me.
So onward I go with this mission of mine, and while the progress often feels minuscule, it is progress nevertheless.
Cada día, un poco más.
Posted by Whitney 02/05/2011, revised 02/05/2011 by Whitney