Thoughts About Spanish (Or Pensamientos Sobre Español) | + “Pan’s Labyrinth”

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.

About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
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4 Responses to Thoughts About Spanish (Or Pensamientos Sobre Español) | + “Pan’s Labyrinth”

  1. Wow that’s so cool you were able to understand it! I’ve studied a bit of Spanish but not that much. I was actually off and on in two spanish speaking countries a couple years back, it was really fun!

  2. Heather says:

    I watched Pan’s Labyrinth a while back. It was an interesting movie and I too was pleased with my ability to understand the Spanish, but then also it was kind of depressing (but then, most of the movies in Spanish that I’ve seen are…). But that’s okay. I also am worried about losing my Spanish since I won’t be taking it over the summer or next semester, and that would be disappointing to lose it. I feel like it would be easier to keep if I had someone to use it with, rather than me trying to motivate myself. Perhaps I should go hunting for a Spanish-speaking friend before the school year lets out so they can keep me on my toes…

  3. Shanti says:

    I’ve never seen Pan’s Labyrinth, but I loved your musings on Spanish. I feel the same way about Hindi– I’ve lived in Hindi-speaking India (no, not all of India speaks Hindi) all my life, and I can speak it quite well. But I reached the highest second language level at school two years ago, got my language credit, passed, and haven’t really learnt or even spoken hindi since. I guess since my dad is south Indian it’s not really part of my cultural heritage, but it feels really important. My grammar, reading and writing have never been that good; but I can speak it okay, and that’s important to me. I’m just losing my hindi by going to an English school and I don’t know how to fix that. Thanks for the post!

  4. Miriam Joy says:

    Impressive Spanish skills! The only language I’ve done for any length of time was French, which I did for seven years, but even at the end of that I couldn’t watch a film in French. Mostly because spoken French sounds nothing like how you’re taught to speak in school, they just blur all their words together.

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