Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reading Spanish

Something shifted, a few months ago. I had been going on for years, reading a few pages of Spanish and adding two or three words every day to my Anki flashcards, and I had settled into an amiable despair about it. The lovely thing about Anki is that it keeps bringing the words back to you, and you get a real sense, over the years, for just how much work it is to keep your vocabulary alive: you no longer get to believe that just because you learned a word a couple years ago it's going to stay learned. The real progress I could make with vocabulary turns out to be maybe two words per day. That's fine if you aim to be able to chat about the weather, but if you aim to be able to read difficult texts, and poetry, you're aiming at a vocabulary of, say, 20,000 words. Ten years' worth of work.

Well, sure. But I've done ten years' work -- considerably more, actually -- and the slow accumulation is paying off. And I realized at last that the vocabulary drilling, though necessary -- I do need to have a certain number of words really nailed down -- is not an efficient use of most of my time. What I actually need to do is read, read huge quantities of Spanish, and most of the time, just glide over words that I don't know, or don't really know. So I changed the proportions. I require myself to read at least twenty pages a day, and sometimes double that. And I'm beginning to see the end of the road, when my reading facility will near my English reading facility. I'm still drilling on vocabulary -- partly just because I like doing that -- but I just have to get through the pages. I actually can master the reading of Spanish, even if I never become fluent speaking it. ("After all, you can't speak English fluently either," said Martha, which is true enough.)

So I'm happy, and energized, about this.

A quiet white-sky day, heart-wrenchingly beautiful, with soft oblique lights: new leaves glowing, and the new needle-growth a pointillist's dream on the dark firs. Everywhere the scent of flowers. All the sound is muffled and muted, almost as when there's fresh snow.

Wishing I could go rambling up the river: but it's a work day. 

1 comment:

Nimble said...

What a gift another language is! I admire your perseverance. How sweet to see the progress happening.