According to Duolingo, I’m 52% fluent in Spanish, after about 75 days of hard work. I wasn’t starting from zero with Spanish. In fifth through eighth grades, my school provided language classes. We took some Spanish, some German and some French, but mostly Spanish. Unfortunately, we could never hold onto a teacher, so we started over every year.
My dad grew up speaking Spanish in Peru, but it was not something that he passed on to my brother and me. There are times that I wish he had, but I do have a good grasp of the English language, so I shouldn’t complain.
I started using Duolingo knowing some very basic Spanish and a few phrases useful for greeting and communicating with my relatives. I think that got me past the very first lessons on Duolingo, maybe six of them. I had next to no grammar and a vocabulary that would have prevented me from reading a Spanish version of Dr. Seuss.
My goal was to learn enough Spanish by the time I went to visit my grandmother, who does not speak much English, that I could communicate with her. And, by the time I left, I had attained level 13, with 5700 XP. I’d made it past the irregular future construction and the past and present perfect, both of which turned out to be very helpful, grammatically speaking. I found out, during that visit, that present tense is not very helpful in conversation.
And, I mean, I probably knew that, but until you are trying to communicate with someone while using a limited word and grammar arsenal, it doesn’t really hit home. I can rattle off English without even thinking about what tense I’m using, but in Spanish, I found myself struggling to construct a proper sentence. Still, the 52% seemed like a decent assessment. I could communicate most of what I wanted to say, resorting to pointing and pantomime only a few times.
And I could understand the gist of what my grandmother, and other relatives, including my dad, were saying better than I could speak. I might not have known the precise tense they were using, but I could catch the roots of the words and fill in the blanks using context clues. For the most part.
I don’t think I’m ready to go and live in a Spanish speaking country, but I think I could navigate through one, though not gracefully. And I feel more confident, having spent some time living with the language, rather than just studying it. I’m satisfied with what Duolingo has done for my Spanish skills, and in a short amount of time. My only complaint is that I’m learning Spain-Spanish and the section on Countries didn’t even mention Peru. I guess I’ll have to rely on my relatives to catch on to Peruvian slang.