Materials for sufficiently refreshing my Spanish by September.
Every day I receive by email a Spanish word of the day from about.com/Spanish. I have been keeping all the words in a small notebook that I read through a couple of times per week. Now I have extra motivation: In a little less than a month my husband and I will be going to Spain to visit friends in Barcelona and La Seu D'Urgell in Catalonia. I have pulled out my 501 Verbs, my book on Idioms and various others to refresh my vocabulary as none of our three friends speak English, only Spanish, Catalan and some French. My husband understands a lot of Spanish but doesn't speak much. I can make my way around and communicate well but there are definitely some glitches in my fluency. Actually it is almost easier to just leave English behind and operate in Spanish because it is more difficult to switch from Spanish to English and back again. However, that would involve leaving my husband behind and I'm definitely not going to do that.
All this reminded me of why I decided to begin to study Spanish at the age of 53: I wanted to be bilingual--and I wanted to learn a language I could actually use. I studied German (mostly reading and translation--very little conversation) at my University in the 60s and 20 years went by before I ever heard a word in German. Except for being able to distinguish entrances from exits and to say good morning and good night, today I have no residual knowledge of the German language.
Recently there has been much emotional debate about immigration and problems that obviously need addressing with sane and humane discussion in search of solutions. One Denver newspaper reporter did an in-depth study of the entire issue which was printed as a series. Since it involved complex issues relevant to both English and Spanish speakers in our area, the Editors decided to publish the articles in both languages.
For the next week the paper was filled with Letters to the Editor full of vitriolic diatribes against printing it in a language other than English. The hubbub has calmed somewhat but is about to rear its ugly head again as the November election nears. On the Colorado ballot there will be a citizen's initiative to change the state constitution to prohibit bilingual education in Denver's Public Schools. In my opinion, our state--and for that matter the world--could use more bilingualism. not less. I feel that with each new language one studies comes new cultural understanding. One of the reasons I love our country is for its diversity, so I have no patience for people who consider it unpatriotic to fund bilingual education in our schools.
I am pretty fluent in writing, reading and speaking Spanish--am working on listening and training my ear to accents--and have been told that I have good ability with languages. Still, I can promise you that if I were asked to sign a legal document, a medical release, any binding statement or financial agreement, I'd definitely want to read it in my first language--and even then might ask for a lawyer to review it.
I will never understand why some people are so paranoid about people speaking another language with their family and friends. I do believe people living in our country should make an effort to learn English as a second language but I also know how long it took me to be fluent. Mastering a language, especially as an adult, is not easy. I have been studying for 12 years once or twice a week for 2 hours and I still can't follow the dialogue on Spanish language TV. The actors speak entirely too fast for me.
Back to the task at hand: I can hardly wait to visit Barcelona, Costa Brava, Bilbao and the Basque Country, see more of the wonderful 1000-year-old villages sprinkled around Northern Spain--and hopefully speak with some of the people we meet.