Backtracking on Spanish

8 Aug

It was bound to happen sooner or later, and was maybe secretly one of my biggest fears about returning home. After reaching such a high level of Spanish fluency, and nearly four weeks at home in the United States, I can see that I’m starting to lose some of my second language ability. I haven’t totally lost the edge, but going so long without consistent practice has caused me to start making some mistakes and to blank on some obscure vocabulary I wound up learning over time.

It’s hard to notice the setbacks immediately, but after talking with a few friends back in Buenos Aires, they joked about how my Spanish has gotten worse. Even just a short time away from a Spanish-speaking environment can affect how well you formulate the words and your response time. In a rush to overcompensate for possibly sounding off, I might speed up how I talk, ultimately causing me to make more errors. It’s nothing monumental for now, but I’m afraid of just how far it can go.

I was aware of this for a long time and after putting so much work and effort into becoming a Spanish speaker, I feel like the ability is my baby, and I don’t want to lose it. I plan on doing as much as I can to stay sharp on Spanish, which means not only staying in touch with my friends in Latin America, but making new Latino friends in Washington. Language is a constant back and forth, and the old saying holds true: if you don’t practice it you lose it. Feeling it slip away is a helpless struggle, and it makes me want to go back to Argentina today.

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2 Responses to “Backtracking on Spanish”

  1. lakshmistar August 9, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    i lived in spain for almost five years (took my proficiency exam in spanish a year ago) and now have been away for nine months and i don’t even know if i could have a conversation (slight exaggeration, but you get the point). it’s very, very depressing. unfortunately, it’s difficult to find spanish speakers here in germany. good luck! hope you find some friends to practice with!

    • Jon August 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

      Thanks for commenting. I know that it’s difficult to find people to practice with, and I know exactly how I felt when someone wanted to speak to me in English while I was abroad. It made me feel like they considered their English better than my Spanish, when all they really wanted was probably to practice their foreign language because they also didn’t have too many other opportunities. Now the tables have turned and I also want to keep in mind that when I meet Spanish speakers, I should let them speak English until they feel like switching over.

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