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20 September 2010 @ 09:39 pm
Spanish class killed me.  
Oh man.
Today was so embarrassing.

So DeAnza's fall quarter began today. I only had one class scheduled, an evening class for the third section of beginning Spanish. Like a fool, I assumed that the teacher would hand out the greensheets, give us the usual first day spiel, and send us home early. That's what most teachers do on the first day, since they have to worry about adding new people, students don't have the textbooks, and so on.

But no. My Spanish teacher announces, after going over her green sheet, that she is not one of those teachers, thank you very much, and we will spend the remaining hour of the class engaging in conversation with each other. In Spanish.

My brain: Buh? WHAT??
I haven't reviewed any Spanish since my summer school class ended in August. Neglectful of me, I know. I'd fully intended to spend most of Wednesday revisiting the previous chapters and getting back into 'Spanish student' mode, but tonight I was not at all prepared to study anything.

Even worse: I've had no spoken Spanish practice. Zip. My previous teacher at DeAnza did absolutely no conversational practice in class - none at all. He preferred to have us practice writing, writing, and writing on worksheets. My Spanish tutor had me read sentences I'd written down to him, but he'd get so hung up on correctly my pronunciation and intonation that we never just talked. It never really hit me until tonight how isolated speaking a language is from being able to read it or comprehend it.
First I have to read/hear what the other person is saying, and translate it into English in my head. This was not so bad. I'd say I understood between 70%-75% of what people said to me.
But to then turn around, compose a sentence in English and then figure out how to say it in Spanish...it just stumped me. They'd be looking at me expectantly, waiting for an answer, and then I'd be fumbling in my head with about 50% of my words figured out, and unable to remember how to properly assemble them into a sentence.

So someone would say "Que estudias en las clases?"
and I'd be like "Yo...estudio...I study...how do you say art history? Hmmm...yo estudio la historia...de arte?"
It was really, really bad.

After a few sentences, most people would give up and we'd revert to speaking in English. One guy, Mike, was perfectly happy to just keep talking in Spanish, so I just listened as he told me about his daughter, who was two, and how his mother had refused to help with the birth and even now wouldn't help with his daughter's birthday party, which was coming up this weekend...a couple times he'd stop and ask if I understood, and I'd tell him what he said in English, and he got the biggest smile.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, an Indian kid just sat there staring at me. We'd spoken a few sentences in Spanish, but when it was clear I'd reached the limit of what I could speak he shut down. I'd ask questions in English, just because we were going to be sitting there for ten minutes doing nothing so we should at least try to look busy, and he'd answer as briefly as possible and then return to staring at the wall. OK, I'd be cheesed off too if I got stuck with someone who was clearly not prepared for the class, but cut me some slack, it's the first day! Teachers usually don't require serious brain activity on the first day.

Annoyingly, I could often remember the Japanese words for what I wanted to say. I haven't even studied Japanese since my first year at DeAnza, and even then I only took one class. How stupid.

Anyway, since this teacher is going to require lots of speaking, and I'm definitely not up to this level of conversational Spanish, I'm dropping the class like a hot stone. DeAnza usually offers Spanish classes that focus on conversation, so I think I'm going to have to take a couple of those classes as a 'remedial' measure before continuing with the regular Spanish curriculum.