This week has been really tough.
OK, in the major scheme of things, our challenges might seem trivial, but there is no doubt that on Monday and Tuesday Andrew and I hit something of a wall at school.
I am not sure if we can necessarily put this down to the fact that we missed a week of school, but a number of factors contributed to a few mental blocks. We have recently been studying three past tenses in Spanish: Preterito Indefinido, preterito perfecto and preterito imperfecto. This week, we also tackled the differences (of which there appear to be many; see previous post!) between ‘por’ and ‘para’.
Combining all these threads proved a little too much for us, and speaking personally, I just couldn't find a pattern in the information that we were being fed and it caused me a huge amount of frustration. I felt swamped by the number of verbs I didn’t know, let alone their conjugations in the various past tenses. I felt overcome by the lack of perceptible logic in how you determine whether to use por instead of para.
I think we both left school on Monday feeling a little defeated and physically and mentally bruised. That all sounds very dramatic, but believe me it is not easy learning a new language from scratch and in such intense conditions.
Tuesday brought little additional solace, and we decided to ask for a few one-to-one lessons. Our feeling of ‘failure’, for want of a better word, was further compounded by the fact that one of the students who had been with us from the start was moved to a slightly higher group. Not great for morale; it later transpired that he had been taking his own individual lessons and was picking up a great deal from Spanish friends of his flatmates.
Today, however, was a new day and the fantastic teaching staff at Escuela Delengua found a new approach to understanding when to use which form of the past tense and there is no doubt that their empathy and enthusiasm helped significantly, and slowly we started to string together sentences containing a variety of past tenses to suit the relevant moments in time.
Our first individual lesson was arranged for this afternoon with a tutor of our choosing and this provided us with our space to ask the questions we needed to have answered to allow us to overcome our own barriers to understanding, and we achieved a huge amount in the space of 45 minutes.
Finally, we felt there had been a breakthrough and that we had made some great strides. It is easy to forget that, only a few weeks ago, we could barely speak any Spanish at all beyond ‘hola’ and ‘que tal’ and yet today we were able to talk about memories from our own pasts.
It is also worth mentioning that we attended our first ‘intercambio’ event: a social gathering in a bar where we get to speak Spanish to Spaniards and they can exercise their English with us. All of this is exhausting!
Arriving home this afternoon, I collapsed on the bed for a snooze, woke up to attempt my homework and, not able to understand what I was supposed to do, I had a mild fit and threw the text book aside. There comes a time when you just have to switch off, and now is one of them…..until tomorrow morning when we go through it all again.