Well, today was the big day for my Spanish. Do or die, Spanish, I said to him. It’s now or never. Don’t . . . embarrass me. Please don’t let me down. Look, times are getting hard; money’s running low; I’m much thinner than I’d like to be. Just come through for me this one time, and I’ll do anything you want. All I ask is that you not muck it up, to echo a great president’s eloquence. Keep it together, suck in your gut, and try to seem intelligent for once in your life. Remember everything I ever memorized for you. Don’t you dare make me look bad. You get me that job or I’ll whoop your ass, don’t you think I won’t. My Spanish just whimpered, took a deep gulp of air, and tried to look brave. Poor guy.
Ahem. We have a good relationship, I swear. Great chums, really.
So, I may have taken a few creative liberties with my remembering of that inner monologue, but you get the idea. What was the occasion? Well, if you read me on here regularly, you know I’ve thrown out a few bones here and there about my personal life. I’ve been in the running for a medical interpreter position at the local university hospital (you’d recognize the name), and after weeks of keeping me on pins and needles, I finally had the interpreting exam today. Gahhh!!! That was a real gas, let me tell you. Qué belleza.
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how I did. Maybe I aced it; maybe I bombed it. Couldn’t tell ya. OK, OK– I did nothing of the sort. It was definitely difficult, and I fumbled and floundered a bit, struggling especially with memory, but I think I did a decent job overall. I disappointed myself some (I always aim for perfection), but I’m hopeful. It was the first time I’ve ever been formally evaluated on my Spanish, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to receive feedback so that I can know what I need to work on.
In what were probably fifteen minutes of speaking, I didn’t have hardly any problems with the words themselves. I didn’t know “aneurysm” and guessed aneurismo— the word is actually aneurisma. I also wasn’t certain about the word “lining,” as in the lining of the arteries. I said forro, which apparently is acceptable, but it would have been better to use revestimiento. Lesson learned. For “bottom line,” I accidentally said línea entre las nalgas. It looks like hucha would have been more appropriate. (That was a joke!) All in all, very pleased with my grasp of the medical terminology. To my annoyance, I used many different phrases for blood pressure because I kept forgetting what I’d been using before due to nerves. Oh well.
Again, it was memory that I struggled with the most. That is a skill that must be learned via practice– all the studying in the world wouldn’t have done me a bit of good with that. Also, the buttering of the flutterflies in my stomach distracted me a great deal. Still, I did my best.
I should know within a week how I did. Either way, it was a valuable experience that will teach me a lot. I’ve never sat any kind of examination like the CEFR, but I would love to do that. It would probably behoove me to do so one day. I would also like to pursue interpreter training and coursework, maybe even do a master’s in the field. We shall see. I’ll let you know my results. If I did terrible and I don’t get the job, that’s fine. I don’t worry about getting egg on my face and looking stupid. If I had let fear and pride hold me back from challenging myself and risking failure, I never would have ended up in Colombia (and, hence, learned Spanish) in the first place. (I had to apply for a very scary and prestigious grant I felt certain I had no chance of getting) I know that my Spanish is great for many purposes, but I’d also be the first to tell you that it’s lacking in many areas and is not even close to being up to snuff for a whole host of purposes. My standards are incredibly high, so that’s why I push myself to constantly improve. In the meantime, it’s good enough for lots of things, even impressive, and I do what I can with what I have. I use it constantly, and I get creative when I struggle to find opportunities to use it. Why, I even made a new German friend recently and have only talked to him in Spanish.
I don’t shy away from opportunities where I’ll feel uncomfortable and where my weaknesses will be exposed; I actively seek them out. I have no ego to cradle, and I welcome criticism and correction, even beg for it. It’s good to finally have an objective goal to aim for and a clear idea of how close I come to it. I make mistakes all the time, believe me. There are countless words I don’t know. There are also countless words I do know, and I say things right all the time, too, even in startlingly natural and fluent ways. I try to be grateful for all the progress I’ve been able to make and keep my eye on my personal goal of more fluency. Better every day. A little more natural every day. A little more precise. When I can have as much fun in Spanish as I do in English and express my quirky personality as fully, I’ll be thrilled. I still don’t know what makes me “qualified” to run a blog devoted to teaching Spanish, but I do, and some of you seem to like it, and I have a lot of fun with it as well.
Thanks for reading, both today and every day. I have really enjoyed interacting with my readers. I actually got to meet and be treated to dinner by one of my out-of-town readers last week– ¡qué dicha la mía! Good times. You can keep your fingers crossed about the interpreting job (I really wasn’t kidding above about the money and getting thin). Here’s hoping!
How about you? Have you pushed yourself to do anything scary in Spanish lately? Do you enjoy receiving feedback? Have you ever had it formally evaluated? What psychological barriers keep you from making the progress you’d like to make? Of course, readers who are learning English are also welcomed to comment, as always.