On How I Have (and Have Not) Studied for Spanish this Summer

As my senior year was winding down, I knew one thing for sure: my summer was going to be fun and it was going to be productive. But in all honesty, it was perhaps a little underwhelming in both of those departments.

Don’t get me wrong – I had fun! (You can read all about the best shenanigans and my favorite memories here!) I truly enjoyed myself all summer long, even if I didn’t have all the adventures I had envisioned in May while I forced myself to cram for AP exams and finals. Actually, I had my fair share of unexpected adventures as well – spontaneous plans with friends, random concert tickets falling in one’s lap, and spur-of-the-moment weekend trips will do that to a person!

And I was pretty productive, too. However, I didn’t live up to my own high expectations from the beginning of summer. I was excited to prepare myself for freshman year of college and to strengthen my Spanish skills, seeing as I will be starting in an advanced level course and am majoring in the subject! Anyway, I had extremely high expectations – as in, studying every day and teaching myself lots and all that jazz.

I didn’t reach those expectations. But I didn’t totally fail.

You see, through four years of taking high school Spanish (AKA three summers) I never once studied over breaks, despite the recommendations and reminders to do so and even my own guilt about never breaking out the books to brush up on the language.

And this summer had higher stakes, at least in my mind. I’m nervous about being in such an advanced level course. I’m sure it will be difficult and challenging in many ways on its own, but I’m also worried that I don’t belong in such a high level yet or that my pool of Spanish knowledge will be so different from all the other students’ pools of knowledge or the expected pool of knowledge (I know career vocabulary, not hobby vocabulary – woe is me!) that I won’t be able to handle it.

So at the very least, I wanted to brush up on my skills and understanding of my pool of knowledge so that I will be ready to take on more information as necessary when class starts, rather than trying to settle back into Spanish and review what I know during the first couple of weeks, like I successfully did in high school each year. I wanted to prepare myself.

Needless to say, I’m a little disappointed with myself for not following through with my expectations better. I wish I were more comfortable with my Spanish – but then again, I always wish that because I’m not fluent and I have a long way to go yet.

However, I can’t say I failed or truly let myself down, even if I do feel disappointment. I did better than I have during past summer. Here’s the progress I did make:

  • I compiled all of my Spanish notes and important work from the last four years into a nifty binder – it is complete with my home-made visual study tools, Spanish I-IV notes, a sparse-but-still-there section for new and self-taught notes, various reading materials, and my own writing that I am particularly proud of.
  • I reviewed over two years of vocab and grammar notes.
  • I’ve spent a decent sum of time reading Spanish labels and directions of household products for practice, or simply thinking about how to translate random phrases in my head (“Tengo hambre, pero no tenemos mucha comida en la casa. Puedo ir a la tienda luego.”) I also like to narrate my own life in Spanish from time to time, eavesdrop on Spanish-speakers’ conversations in public, and try to avoid all English subtitles on TV or in movies. These things are only occasionally successful, but I’m proud of my constant efforts.
  • This is lame, but I think it’s worth mentioning: I’ve had a couple of dreams that have incorporated some Spanish and my dream-self at least attempted to translate. At least once, Dream-Katy tried to translate a language that was very much not Spanish and felt horror and shame at my failure – even though, you know, it wasn’t even a language so of course I didn’t understand. Silly Dream-Katy…
  • I’ve used the Duolingo app quite a bit this summer, as well. It’s very easy to use, fun, and helpful! I recommend it for anyone trying to brush up on vocabulary – it even offers quite a few other languages if you’re not interested in learning Spanish. (I apologize for the plug, I’m not even sponsored or anything – I’m sure I had you fooled into thinking that…though I wouldn’t be against it, if you catch my drift, marketers of Duolingo.)

So you could technically describe my summer as underwhelming, but just because it didn’t meet my expectations doesn’t mean I didn’t have a great summer. If you combine the times where I was suddenly swept off to hang out with my best friends, to go to an awesome concert, to explore Nashville, or to enjoy any other time I had with my friends and family with the the amount of times I felt productive, fulfilled, or successful…well, then I’d have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my “underwhelming summer”.

Thank you for tuning in! Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

I Want to Speak Spanish Fluently…

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela


 

1. So I can watch Spanish movies without the subtitles.
2. So I can use Spanish settings on ATMs and other devices that offer the option.
3. So I can comfortably order in Spanish at authentic Mexican restaurants.
4. Because I want to dream in Spanish.
5. Because I’d love to read lots of Spanish literature.
6. In order to read the instructions on anything in Spanish.
7. To have a “secret code” if my sister continues to learn Spanish, too.
8. So I can understand passers-by.
9. To whip it out if a gaggle of friends and I are in some trouble with some sort of Spanish gang or the Mexican cartel or something and I can save us all, stunning and impressing all of my friends. It’s a highly unlikely event but just in case…
10. So I can listen to music and understand the Spanish lyrics, too.
11. Because I like having those “I forgot the English word for ____” moments.
12. To avoid a generic “I have listening skills”-type answer for the “What are you good at?”-type questions.
13. In order to finally consider myself bilingual.
14. Because I hope to be able to express myself through writing in not one but two languages.
15. To make Spanish-speaking friends, whom I can practice my skills with while speaking their native tongue.
16. So I could contact my high school Spanish teacher and show off my fluency in the language he inspired me to learn.
17. To create more opportunities for myself. This could make or break my employment status.
18. To connect with students. It means that once I get that job, I will be able to communicate with, teach, help, and inspire bilingual or Spanish-speaking students that are often not properly accommodated for.
19. To connect with the world. It means I can travel. There are over 20 countries that have a prominent Spanish-speaking population and 410,000,000 people I could speak to using their native language.
20. For the satisfaction of having learned something all new to me, knowing I worked so hard to get there.

That’s why.

Orientation: How it Went and the Unveiling of My First Semester Classes

On June 2nd, I attended my Orientation session at last! I took the photo for my student ID, went to lots of informational sessions, did some activities to get to know people, was generally over-loaded with information, and scheduled my classes!

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Honestly, the whole day is sort of a blur. There was so much information given to us throughout the day and I retained so little of it. What I do know is that I’m super excited and pretty nervous. That’s not any different from what I felt before Orientation, just more clear and prominent in my mind. Anyway, one example of this mix of emotions that comes to mind is how I feel about my Spanish placement.

As mentioned, I intend to be a Spanish major. I placed into SPAN 330 (a Grammar and Composition class, which means I skipped four classes or levels before it). My high school Spanish teacher had told me that I would probably place into that class or the one below it, so I assumed I would be in the latter. To discover that I had indeed placed so high was quite a pleasant surprise! I’m so proud of myself and so excited! But…what if it’s too high? What if I’m clueless in that class and wait too long to switch because I decide to give myself time to determine whether or not I can catch up? All of that is possible. But in the meantime, I’m just super excited and kinda nervous.

Alright. Down to business. My schedule includes five classes (drumroll please):

  • Spanish
  • Linguistics
  • Religion
  • Music (jazz)
  • Math (College Algebra)

Plus, my earliest class isn’t until 10:30 and I have plenty of time for lunch – can I get a hallelujah?!

I can’t express my excitement enough! I can’t wait. Even though my schedule isn’t exactly as I envisioned (how in the world did I end up in a jazz class?) I am super content with it and am just SO EXCITED. Have I said that enough? Super excited, so pumped, very ready, excited excited excited! There.

I’d love to hear about any of your experiences at Orientation, so comment or contact me personally!

Me and My Program

So what are my credentials anyway?
This post really won’t answer that. (Technically, as I have no real credentials, this post wouldn’t exist at all if it were truly about my credentials…or lack thereof.)
But here’s how my school works.

I go to Truman State University, a fairly small liberal arts school in Kirksville, MO. It is roughly three hours away from my hometown. It was once a teacher’s education school. And it still excels in that area. However, the program is a little different than most. Truman offers a “built-in Master’s program” for education. Meaning you get your Bachelor’s degree in some field – such as history if you’re going to be a history teacher – and then get an MAE. They say people usually take 5 or 5.5 years to do this.
I hope to study elementary and/or special education. So I don’t really have a core subject to study, as a secondary education major likely would. I’ve been told Psychology is very popular for pre-elementary education students. And although I will probably find my way into a lot of psych classes, my true passion is Spanish.

Therefore, I hope to receive my Bachelor’s in Spanish and Masters’ in Elementary and (or) Special Education. The goal is to be in and out after 5.5 years or less. Preferably less. I really can’t wait to stop sitting behind a desk and start standing in front of twenty desks.

I have big plans – I’ll have so much room to move around with my degrees. I can teach elementary classes, special education, Spanish, dual-language classrooms, English as a Second Language, etc. I could even teach in foreign countries with my Spanish skills! I’m very excited for all of these possibilities and I know I will move around and do as much as possible in my life.

One thing I definitely hope and plan to do is be active with charities. Not only volunteering, but perhaps even opening a chapter or a branch of a charity (like Operation Backpack or First Book) in my area or school. Heck, maybe I’ll start an entirely new not-for-profit organization of my own!

Another possibility is getting into politics.
Source: scholastic.com

I am not a fan of the American education system as it is now and I so strongly believe in education and children – if I can’t change the system from within a classroom, I might just try to do so from some political office. We’ll have to see where life goes.

So…moral of the story is that even though I know what I’ll do (study Spanish and education), I don’t have any idea what I’m gonna do (public vs. private schools, elementary/special/foreign language education, teaching vs. politics, etc.)
And yet you’re here, listening to all I have to say to you.
THANK YOU!