Spanish and Chinese

I started taking Spanish lessons about early summer and I gave those up because I wasn’t practicing and reviewing and I was dreading each lesson. Then in mid-summer, I found an online friend in Mexico who I’ve been exchanging English/Spanish lessons on nights we are both free and that has been nice – even though I also, for the most part, felt unprepared each time. But it’s been enough to remind me that language learning is something that I want to do. In the past few weeks, I found some inspirational language learning channels on youtube and I realized that I needed to touch the language more often. So slowly over the past month or so, I’ve switched over my music, my Netflix watching, my Instagram/Twitter (you know how to decrease social media use? Just switch it over to a language you can’t really understand) and my podcasts over to Spanish. So when I’m at my desk working, I listen to Spanish music and pay almost no attention to the lyrics (though the most used word is corazon (heart) which seems on par with English pop songs), when I’m doing laundry, feeding Edda or reupholstering, I listen to Spanish podcasts (usually geared towards Spanish learners, though I have a few about minimalism, running and current events – those are challenging) and then when I have time (hardly ever), I pay attention to Netflix spanish language movies. This is not entirely relaxing. Sometimes I’ll go back to all English stuff because, man, you just need to watch/listen something with no brain cells – Taylor Swift (again at the top of my Spotify 2020 wrapped list) and I watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix which was wonderful. There is so much Spanish available to listen to and watch. I use Language Learning with Netflix (chrome extension) to have both Spanish and English subtitles, and then I use the Toucan extension in chrome to replace words in English websites over to spanish, so, for example, I’ll be reading NYTimes articles and 3-5% of the words are replaced with Spanish words and I can click them off saying I know them and they’ll start replacing harder and harder words. I’m not sure how long this will last, I can’t decide if this is sustainable. But I’m rewarded. I had two Spanish speaking patients on Sunday, I stumbled through basic things, I’m starting to conjugate verbs, I can make jokes about the commercials on spanish language channels. It’s fun. And extremely useful. I still use the translation phone a lot.

Then I was like – oh, I should just listen to Chinese podcasts too – just a few minutes to improve my Chinese. My Chinese is in a strange place. I almost always learn something on the beginning levels – I have trouble with some transitional phrases – “approximately” or “day after tomorrow” but I understand 90-95% of the lesson. On the pre-intermediate levels, I can understand about 80% of the lesson. Yesterday I learned the word for Spam and, of course, there are words that can’t translate over to English, so I learned the word for “affectionately made” sandwich, which is the sandwich I get everyday I’m at the hospital. (Jeremy always wakes up with me on my hospital shift days and makes me lunch. On Sunday, he warned me that there wasn’t much food in the house, but when I finally got around to opening the sandwich at 4pm, I saw that he had made a PB and J sandwich with the crusts cut off and then sliced into quarters – this was an “affectionately made” sandwich…<3). Once I step into the true intermediate Chinese levels where they start explaining the Chinese using Chinese, I’m lost. lol.

I feel like with Spanish, as I learn more, the learning should accelerate because I can close into the language. But with Chinese, even though I have a head start, I feel like the language will just explode open because I have no anchor to tie me down – and you can just start going down the reading/writing path which is also its own enormous monster.

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