Contemplating Quitting Spanish...
I have been contemplating quitting Spanish for the past two or three weeks. After a week of painstakingly memorizing the longest list of irregular verb conjugations of all time that seemed to have no pattern, no rhyme, and no reason (by what logic does the verb poner conjugate into puse in the past tense?! Puse, really?! Come on!), I thought I’d finally mastered the past tense- el preterito indefenido. I was beginning to be able to talk about what what I’d done during the weekend or yesterday after class, for example, with greater and greater ease.
Of course it couldn’t be that easy, could it? Lo and behold, the introduction of another tense to refer to actions in the past- el preterito imperfecto. And so, I spent another week memorizing the conjugations of verbs in yet another form of the past tense. Luckily, the imperfecto only has 3 irregular verbs. Things were going well, however, until my class had to learn to speak using both forms of the past tense simultaneously.
Are you talking about an action that was completed in the past? Indefinido. Was it something you did habitually? Imperfecto. Were you interrupted during this act? Imperfecto. Were you referring to a specific time in the past? Indefinido. Were you describing a person, place, or thing in the past? Imperfecto. Is it about how you felt, the weather, or comparing something before and after? Imperfecto. Suddenly, Spanish wasn’t so much fun anymore. Not only did I have to conjugate my verbs depending on who I was talking to, whether they are singular/plural/feminine/masculine, and whether that verb was irregular or regular, I now had to also do complex Jedi mind tricks to remember if the information I was about to recount was imperfecto or indefinido with each sentence.
I should've moved to Belize...
The Imperfecto v. Indefinido robbed me of my joy and I resigned myself to a carper diem/ YOLO form of Spanish in which I’d only speak in the present tense and pretend to have suffered from amnesia about all else. Thus, for the past few weeks, I’d leave class at Habla Ya after four hours of Spanish daily and consider my options. Perhaps I don’t really need to learn to speak Spanish in Panama. I speak English exceptionally well (as exemplified by the previous sentence). Isn’t that good enough? What ever someone doesn’t understand in English, I can easily pantomime. I don’t really need to make local friends, buy groceries, or take a taxi. Talking to other people is totally overrated!
With that being said, the other day, my neighbor and language partner, Kimmy, found me on the couch with my head in my lap, surrounded by my class notes and Habla Ya textbooks. Immediately alarmed, Kimmy asked me what was wrong and I lamented that I’d given up on being able to speak properly in the past tense. Ever patient with my flare for drama, Kimmy volunteered to help me out. “Tell me about your life before Bocas,” she said. Okay, here goes nothing: I told her I was mostly raised by a single mother and I have 2 younger siblings. I had to make good grades to be able to afford college. I also worked hard in college to be able to get a good job, etc.
When I was done, exhausted by the mental effort it took to string all those sentences together in Spanish, Kimmy just stared at me. Did I just butcher her native language, I wondered. “Es muy malo?,” I cringed and asked her. "No," Kimmy shook her head in surprise, “es correcto.”
I may or may not have cheered and cripwalked through the living room. Alright, I'll admit it: those 4 hours of day in Spanish class are paying off.
Okay, Spanish. I’ll give you another chance.