It’s often hard to know how much progress you’re making with a language, since the incremental daily changes are near-impossible to measure as they happen. We don’t walk around going, “hey, my vowels sound just a little better today than they did on Tuesday!” Language development is a long-term process, something that happens over months rather than hours. Still, there are times when I manage to do something or make some point in a conversation that I know would have been absolutely impossible for me a year or even three months ago. These are the moments when I realize that I am still progressing, that my Spanish hasn’t stagnated at good-enough-to-buy-bus-tickets-but-not-good-enough-to-win-an-argument-about-homophobia (which, for the record, is right about where it is right now. But onwards! And upwards!). It’s important to acknowledge these little victories, if only for the fact that it keeps me motivated and hopeful that I can keep improving, every day.
A few of the things I can now accomplish in Spanish:
- Get something notarized without ruining any important paperwork (I am most self-impressed by this one. It’s a very confusing process, even in English!)
- Translate answers to questions as someone is speaking — again, without ruining anything important.
- Get from Bogotá to Manizales using three taxis, a plane and a bus without getting lost or ripped off.
- FedEx a document (to be fair, at this point I could probably fill out a shipping label in my sleep. Or in Mandarin).
- Get a haircut and actually have it turn out pretty much exactly as I want it.
- Explain why I’m a vegetarian and have people actually understand it. Insofar as most Colombians understand the concept of vegetarianism (anything more than “So you don’t like meat?” is progress).
- Give directions that are at least intended to be helpful and accurate.
- Take a yoga class without looking like a confused fool.
A few things I still can’t do:
- Make good jokes.
- Win the aforementioned argument about homophobia.
- Correctly write dates without double-checking the order of the days and months.
- Convince my attractive co-worker that I am obviously the perfect woman. Then again, I couldn’t do this in English, either.
- Explain American football.