Last week we studied magical realism, a genre that has its origins in Latin America in the early twentieth century, in my Intro to the Short Story class. The connection between this genre and the Spanish language was further cemented in my mind after we watched El laberinto del fauno, or Pan’s Labyrinth, a 2006 Spanish/Mexican film by Guillermo del Toro.
I absolutely adored the film, but that’s not what I want to discuss today. Maybe I’ll write a post about it some other day, but right now I want to talk about my surprise at and happiness with finding an opportunity to practice my Spanish.
The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles, and… well, I’m short, and I was sitting in the second row, so it was hard for me to see the subtitles at the bottom of the screen. I was annoyed and would’ve gotten up to change seats if there had been any empty seats in the row before me, but there weren’t. And eventually I realized that I didn’t need the subtitles, that I was getting along just fine without them.
It was a “!!!!” moment because I didn’t know that my Spanish skills were sufficient enough to allow me to watch and understand an entire movie with relatively little difficulty. I didn’t know that I knew that much Spanish, especially since I haven’t practiced it, well, at all ever since I started college.
It was also a huge boost to my confidence since, to my knowledge, the Spanish spoken in Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the dialects spoken in Spain. Out of practicality, I was taught to speak and write a more American dialect of Spanish, so I was proud of myself for being able to pick up on what was being said, considering that I wasn’t used to the specific accent, pronunciation, idioms, et cetera.
It was a REALLY fun experience and I guess the reason I kept thinking about it – the reason I’m writing this post now – is that I would like to repeat it. I miss practicing my Spanish skills, and it would be a shame if I were to forget what I’ve learned, especially considered how many years’ worth of effort I’ve put into learning the language. (I started in elementary school.) As I said earlier, I haven’t practiced it since moving to college, and I’d like to change it.
I’m just not sure exactly HOW. The Spanish & Portuguese Department at my school does hold a weekly Spanish conversation hour, but I’m not sure that that’s really what I’m looking for at the moment. I think I would prefer reading or watching something in Spanish, I guess?
Of course it’s important to maintain my speaking skills in that language, but right now I really want to expand my vocabulary, and my past experience of practicing Spanish in groups or clubs has been one of… very basic and limited conversation. We pretty much just go through greetings and “how was your day?” and stuff like that.
Soooo, I would love to read books or watch movies and TV in Spanish, but I’m concerned that this habit won’t last. My resolve will last, but there’s a huge difference between saying that you want to do something and actually doing it… I haven’t read very many books in English lately because I just haven’t been in the mood to, and I can never seem to find time to watch TV because there are so many other things I’d rather do first. When I watch movies, it’s generally because some friends invited me to come over or to go to the theater with them, so obviously we’re gonna watch the film in English.
I DON’T EVEN KNOW. I suppose I’ll start with finding some books – maybe something from the middle-grade or YA sections of the library, something that I’ve read before that will aid me in figuring out the context of certain words or phrases – and go from there.
So, we’ll just have to see how it goes. Writing this post reminded me of how much I also miss playing the piano, and how that’s another skill that I need to practice so that I don’t lose it… but that’s another post for another time. ADIÓS.