Lo Siento, No Hablo Muy Bien

Since when did you start learning Spanish?

It’s been 10 years now, and saying this makes me realized how long ago was that.

What happened? What was the trigger?

I think I watched something on my parents’ TV one afternoon and Marc Anthony caught my eyes, and that innocent crush continues to this day.

So at first it’s mostly just trying to sing his songs —not even to understand, I just want to be able to sing along. At that time Iconos was his latest release so I memorized all the lyrics religiously because of that.

Before we get deeper, I gotta ask: why Spanish, though? I mean, it’s not really that popular here, right?

True… But Spanish is the easiest on our tongues, I swear. I used to wanted to learn French and Latin, but the pronunciation is killing me, I can’t deal with that. With Spanish, what you see is exactly how you pronounce it. It’s also the third most spoken language in the world.

What methods have you tried so far, for the past 10 years?

Again, mostly lyrics.

And it’s not exactly 10 full years. There were some downtime when I was in college, I didn’t actively learn at all. But at my senior year, Bad Bunny rose up to be the biggest Latin artist, I guess, and I started listening to songs in Spanish again because of him.

Watching movies and series also helps me get used to hearing actual talking voice in Spanish, because there’d still be differences between someone singing and someone just having a conversation, right?! Breaking Bad was my first, though it’s only bits here and there. Then we have Narcos, which I love so much, and then the very popular La Casa de Papel. The last one I didn’t really watch it because, not only that it gets too popular and I lose interest after 2 seasons, but also because the story took place in Spain, meanwhile I consider myself more of a Latin American Spanish learner.

After I raked up a bunch more of vocabularies, I started reading news pieces, particularly from BBC Mundo. You know how when in high school, during language exams, we were given passages and asked to give the main idea of the text or the paragraphs? That’s what I did with those news pieces. I may not be able to translate every single word, but at least I know what this part and that part was talking about.

I also use some apps. Infinite Spanish is handy for adding more basic vocabularies. SpeakTribe gives more complex, practical examples. But Duolingo is by far the best for beginners because it balances the vocabulary, reading, writing, and speaking practices.

Last week I just received John Green’s Tu Mundo y el Mío and it’s my first Spanish book. Very excited to read it, although I already got the original English version few months ago.

What’s the obstacles on learning Spanish, from your experiences?

Right off the bat: no one to practice conversations with.

Then, because I learn it Spanish/English and not Spanish/Bahasa Indonesia, sometimes words just get lost in translation. I can’t imagine being a polyglot with multi-languages processors up there.

So yeah, about that, could you give us a description on how do you process that in your head? I mean, do you translate words from Bahasa Indonesia to English, then to Spanish, and vice versa, or how?

Fortunately my fluency in English is quite okay, so even now, I mostly think in English, and it helps a lot because I bypassed the need to process words in Bahasa Indonesia altogether when I’m learning Spanish or other languages. Lately I’ve been trying to incorporate more Spanish vocabs into my thoughts just so I get more familiar to it. No need to be embarrassed, it’s me and me only in my head anyway.

Aside from the language itself, what do you learn from this experience of adding Spanish as a third language?

That expertise takes time.

I have friends who are still struggling with ESL. Whenever they asked for tips, I would only say to start thinking in English and read out loud more so that they can hear themselves, subconsciously giving them the confidence to speak English and that they are not ‘weird-sounding’.

But now I am practicing the same tips for Spanish and I figured it’s really not as easy as I made it seems with English, and if I really wanted to get fluent, I better move to Puerto Rico soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *