Investing in Myself

Recently I decided that I really want to spend 7-10 days in Ecuador taking an intensive Spanish language course.

I’ve been a student of Spanish since Freshman year of high school. I have official documentation, issued by the state, declaring me fluent. I also have a M.S. in Spanish as a Foreign Language, the course work for which was entirely in Spanish. One might assume a certain level of fluency was required to complete that program as well.

And yet, my Spanish is not where I want it to be. I don’t consider myself, in my heart of hearts, to be a fluent Spanish speaker. I still pause sometimes when I speak. I still stumble. I still have to search for the word (or blatantly look it up). I still sometimes even do a quick conjugation in my head before I finish a sentence. I feel like I can’t express myself as fluidly in Spanish–I know my sense of humor wouldn’t translate. Mistakes abound when I speak about anything outside of my purview.

I talk a lot about finding another a job, but what I don’t mention is that one of the reasons I’m wary to apply is that I don’t feel my Spanish is high enough to teach the more difficult courses, where I’m expected to be the definitive word on exactly when to use each of the past tenses, AND how to properly employ that pesky subjunctive. I know I can teach Spanish I really well, but I think I’d struggle with even some aspects of Spanish II. I wouldn’t feel comfortable applying for (or saying I could teach) Spanish III or higher.

A Spanish teacher who doesn’t speak fluent Spanish!? How did I get myself into this one?

It doesn’t really matter how it happened, what’s important is that I don’t regret that I did. I love the Spanish language. I love teaching a foreign language. I love speaking it with my kids and sending them to an immersion school. I love everything about Spanish. It makes me happy.

The only thing that’s lacking in the realm of Spanish, for me, is my own abilities.

I have big plans to take my kids, for a month at a time, to Spanish speaking countries over the summers as I try to find a place for us to live for a year. I also want to speak Spanish more at home, possibly all the time if my son attends an English-only transitional kindergarten when he’s five. I want my Spanish to be better.

I’m so close. I really do feel so much closer than I’ve ever been. I’ve been immersing myself as much as I can lately; watching TV, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, and even sometimes writing my morning pages in Spanish. I can listen to Spanish and do something that requires some brain activity, like grading papers. I’ve been speaking to my kids more in Spanish (I used to be so good about this but have fallen off the wagon in recent years). I even catch myself thinking in Spanish! And sometimes only a Spanish word will come to me and I have to look it up to remember its English translation.

My comprehension is almost where I want it to be (I only struggle when speaking with some people who talk really fast, or eat the ends of their words), but my speaking could still use some work. I want to speak faster, and with less of an accent. I want the words to come as quickly in the past tense as they do in the present (and when I’m giving “commands”). I feel like I’m right at the summit of a mountain I’ve been climbing my entire adult life, and a week of intensive immersion would get me over the cusp.

I found a program in Ecuador that offers 30 hours of one-on-one classes for an absurdly low amount. Oh, and that absurdly low amount includes a home stay with a family. I’d be speaking Spanish all day, six hours a day with someone who can give me notes and answer my questions. I’d also get to check out Ecuador.

Why Ecuador? I know Guatemala has really cheap language learning opportunities but I’ve been there before. Two times. I’ve also been to a few places in Mexico, and to Costa Rica twice.  I’ve never been to South America, and I want to save Peru for a trip with my family so Ecuador it was. I also have a friend whose husband is from Ecuador; I’m hoping he can direct my to some worthwhile cities to visit on either end of my classes.

So yeah. That is currently my plan, and it has me really excited. The only thing that stresses me out is being away from my kids for so long, and the strain that puts on those who will have to take care of them. But a few unique opportunities are presenting themselves on that front, so I’m hoping I can make it work. Right now it feels like an investment I have to make in myself, so I have the skills and confidence to teach at a higher level, if that is really what I want to do. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll be teaching math and science in Spanish at an immersion school. That would be really cool.

I really hope this whole Ecuador thing works out.

How are you investing in yourself these days?



  1. I love this. I do not speak Spanish at all. I do speak French (French Canadian, there is a difference). I absolutely love when someone is shocked that both me and my children can speak it. Currently my eldest, who is 4 is taking Spanish at her Pre-K course. I am amazed by how fast she is picking it up.

  2. Proud of you and happy for you.
    Hope if it happens you can still be writing to us. In English. But if not, going without posts, for that time, would be a small thing in support of you being and doing what is right and good for you! Please do not leave us for always.
    Cheering you on and hoping this dream can happen and works the way you hope.

  3. The way you describe your Spanish skills is how I felt about French a decade ago. Most people would consider me fluent, and I’d dream and think in French all the time, but I’d still catch myself conjugating in my head or fumbling over vocab/phrases. I was SOOOO close to feeling *there* – and now I’ve lost so much ground because I don’t use it in my daily life. I think it’s awesome that you’re contemplating a trip like this!

  4. Great idea! We lived in Paris last year and sent the kids to the local public school (they go to a French immersion school in the US, so they knew the language) . It was amazing!

  5. This sounds great. I’m very impressed. My late dad was fluent in 5 languages and taught two (fed language school). But alas, not genetic. I did well when I took German 7th-10th grades but I could never converse.

  6. How exciting! I’m rooting for you! The program sounds amazing. Don’t worry about the “not so little” things…work on getting there. The rest will fall into place.

  7. I really really hope you can work this out. Seems like a perfect opportunity, both personally and professionally and I think if you get into the class you should just book it and work out the details later. This is the kind of thing that could slip away so easily and you’d regret it.

  8. I tried to respond when I first read this, but iPad and Feedly conspired against me, and I lost my lovely long comment.

    What I wanted to say was that I 100% support you doing this. Language speaking needs practice to keep it up, let alone to improve it. And fluency is so hard to achieve. When I was in Thailand, as I studied more and more advanced Thai, and got a better idea of our fiendishly difficult it was (whereas at beginner levels it is quite easy), all I could see was fluency retreating off the horizon. So good for you to recognise what you need to do to get there.

    I will admit though that I am very jealous you are so close to fluency now. I have dabbled in languages, and I’m pretty good at them, but will never be fluent in any of them.

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