Friday, June 23, 2006

Learning (sort of) Spanish in Chacala

Someone waiting for a ride at the Chacala collectivo stop in Las Varas

This morning on the collectivo going into Las Varas, I noticed I could understand most of the words to a Spanish song some guy was singing on the radio. Then later, in the market that always has a TV blasting, I realized I understood what the announcer was saying without looking at the screen for some contextual hints. After all this time, I can sort of get by in Spanish, but I am a thousand miles from being fluent, or even competent in Spanish.

I had two years of Spanish and two years of Latin in high school, and two years of Italian in college, and never learned much of anything. For the five months before I moved to Mexico, I took two Spanish classes (two different classes with two different teachers on two different nights a week) for most of two quarters. Still didn't learn much. Written vocabulary and some phrases maybe.

I took some Spanish classes with Trini when I first arrived, but it was the start of the winter tourist season and I never really got into the rhythm of classes. We did/do spend time together, talking and helping each other some with our respective language studies. Of course, Trini is a thousand years ahead me in her English, as compared to me and my Spanish.

Lately we have been talking again about her "Escuela de Espanol". Awhile ago I set up a mini-website for her but we never really took the time to work on it and I took if off the Web awhile ago. But if you are interested in arranging for classes with Trini her e-mail is or call her from the US 011 52 327 219 4018.

The story I told myself is that I was learning by "immersion". I guess I was because I obviously have learned quite a bit. But in the second winter I was here an American woman, Gale LeBow, came to Chacala. It turned out she had written a book called "Spanish Simplified", which has CD lessons, written lessons, and flashcards included. Eight lessons. Very clear and easy to follow and understand. I really liked the book, and Gail, but didn't want to spend the money, and didn't. If you are interested her website is

But then, later that winter, the mother-in-law of a friend of Gail's came to Chacala and she gave me a copy of the book. I was thrilled, and went thru the written part of the book completely, several times over a couple of months. Didn't have a CD player so didn'd do the CD part until later. Learned alot. Then my son brought me a CD player and whenever I was cleaning or drawing or cooking or something, I would play the CD and talk back to the CD. Learned a lot.

Then the CD stopped working and I lost interest in studying. Didn't study at all until the following Fall, when Ann, a great traveller and very generous person, gave me a really nice Spanish language grammar testbook. I have be dipping into that off and on. Usually when I want to know how to say something in particular. But I am really not studying at all.

I usually "read" the weekly Spanish language political "newspaper" in Las Varas whenever I see it. And I buy a couple of Mexican magazines every month. I read them and pass them on to someone in town. I can read signs and stuff. And I can understand some people pretty well and others not at all. People can usually understand me, and they freely correct me, so that's good.

I feel sort of dumb that I haven't put a serious, organized effort into learning Spanish. But it's the truth. Oh well. I can talk to most people around town, and do, everyday. There are still a few English speaking people in town right now, maybe six or eight. And I usually run into one or two of them most days. So I probably won't forget how to speak English.

But I have turned over a new leaf. I set up a little "studying Spanish" desk for myself last, and I am about to put in my 30 minutes a day. Starting today. Well, probably today.

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