As everybody who’s been through this process knows, it’s impossible to get a sense of your own progress on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.
So, more often than not, it’s other people commenting on your level of linguistic competence which triggers the realisation that you might actually be getting somewhere, and I’ve had a couple of heartening pronouncements from unbiased strangers recently.
The first one tumbled out of the mouth of a friend of a friend when the three of us were having a drink together. The guy (who I hadn’t met before) asked me how many years I’d been living in Spain. That’s right, he said “YEARS”. I realise I’m willfully misconstruing his choice of words into compliment on my Spanish, but, I reckon, if he thought I’d been in Spain for a long time, then my Spanish must be getting quite good, right? On the other hand, he may have such rock-bottom expectations of foreigners acquiring a serviceable level of the language that he was impressed by me ordering a a bottle of tonic water.
A slightly less ambiguous appraisal from another complete stranger came last Tuesday, during a flight form Madrid to Miami. I got chatting to a chirpy Nicaraguan lady in the seat across the aisle from me. Although I’m unlikely to meet her again, I shall nevertheless love that woman for ever and ever, because she asked me if I was Spanish! Oh my, if I’m managing to fool a native Spanish speaker into thinking that, I must be making some serious headway!
As an aside, even though I’m not in Spain at the moment, Project Trilingual is by no means on hold. Key West is a stone’s throw from Cuba, and the island (the whole of Florida, really) is full of Cubans and other Latin Americans. Spanish is spoken everywhere, and I keep listening to people in the street speaking it in their various regional accents, and I don’t miss any opportunities to converse in Spanish with the staff in shops and restaurants. It’s great to be able to understand what’s going on around me. Only a year ago, this would have been impossible, and I find it very satisfying 🙂