During my senior year of high school, my Spanish teacher told us we had taken Spanish far enough to truthfully put “fluent in Spanish” on a resume. Before we could all get too cocky, another student asked what level he would say our fluency was. “About second grade,” he said.
It’s just that I thought fluent meant, like, fully fluent.
Later that year I applied for a Spanish-speaking job. My truck was broken down in my dad’s garage so I took the bus and trudged through the nastiest black sludge in my lavender snow boots, swapping them out for sensible black pumps just a few minutes before the interview. My interview was done completely in Spanish and, the job being for reception at a women’s health clinic, I kept having to pause with red cheeks and say, “I’m sorry… I don’t know how to say mammogram (or pap smear, menstrual cycle, or pregnancy) in Spainsh.” Flustered, I finally said, “I feel like I probably seem silly to have applied. I’m really sorry. I’m great at Spanish! We just didn’t cover the reproductive system in my public school Spanish classes.” The interviewer laughed but I took another job anyways and was shocked when she called a month later to offer me the position (which I turned down, and kinda wish I hadn’t!) after complimenting my dialect.
I took one Spanish class in college. It ended up being primarily review for me and I had started college feeling confident I’d choose Spanish as my minor but lost all interest when it came down to choosing Spanish or a dance class for my elective each semester.
I have used Spanish in every single job I’ve ever worked, even if it was only once. I’ve made more money than my co-workers because of my ability to speak Spanish. I’ve seen great things come from being bilingual… but I’m not bilingual anymore. If you don’t use it, you lose it… and even though I’ve attempted to use it all these years, I wasn’t using a whole lot of it. I do find that quite a bit of it is like riding a bicycle and that I frequently say, “Ugh, I used to know that word…” and then never say that again because I’ve got it down once I relearn it.
It’s important to me that my children learn Spanish. I did not take Spanish in kindergarten and I still managed to become a second grader (and now probably a three-year-old) so I like to think this just might mean my children will graduate high school with the proficiency of perhaps a middle schooler? I can carry on a conversation with middle schoolers just fine so I’d say they’ll be sitting quite pretty if that pans out.
I haven’t been using any kind of pre-made Spanish curriculum. I imagine I will at some point, since hopefully my kids will eventually surpass me. Right now we are learning primarily nouns, with a few phrases thrown in. I think this makes sense since that’s the way we learn English. Mama, Dada, ball, book, doggie, me-do-it, etc. We also occasionally watch a Dora the Explorer/Diego DVD from the library, or play the Dora the Explorer game for that Innotab my friend gave us. I recently listened to a podcast from Read Aloud Revival that made me want to read more Spanish picture books to my kids since we do this so very rarely.
I’m on the hunt tonight for some Spanish songs, games, and activities I can throw into my repertoire over here because I never want it to be just a boring list of memorized words. I want it to be something they can get excited about.