Saturday, June 11, 2016

that proverbial fork

I have a decision to make.

Whenever I write a sentence like that, I know there will always be a two-word answer: Yogi Berra. The Great Philosopher of the Diamond had sage advice for all of life's vexations.

What could be better advice about social obligations than -- "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours." Or this gem that both presidential candidates this year may want to heed (though neither will): "You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there."

But you already know the quotation all of this is leading up to. "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

I am at one of those forks right now with my Spanish language project. Last October, I started at home with a Pimsleur-based computer program -- a program I had started seven years ago. I faithfully followed the lesson plan daily until I headed north in November.

Duolingo, an Android-based application, came to my rescue on that trip. I set up the program for maximum daily lessons -- and I have kept up with it until now. It is not very instructive, but it helped me to develop a daily study habit.

But there is only so much that can be learned from these programs. I needed human contact -- and expert advice on grammar and vocabulary. In March, I found that at Cornerstone, a local language school, owned by a member of our church.

My teacher was Amy. She has spoken Spanish all her life -- in southern California, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. And she now teaches high school Spanish in Maine. While on a year sabbatical from teaching, she decided to use her talents with students who are -- how to put this delicately, a lot older. That would be my colleagues and me.

For the past three months, I have attended two one-hour sessions four days each week. Because it is a "drop in when you can" school, the courses are a bit more informal than my German, Greek, Russian, and Italian classes.

I found that a bit frustrating. And, because I let my obsession convince me I was not learning anything (and could not), I pulled the plug on the class twice -- only to return the next day.

I am glad I stayed. My Spanish conversation is still atrocious, but I have honed my written translation skills. It is a start.

Unfortunately, for Amy, it is the end. She is returning to Maine. Last Thursday was our last session with her. (That is her -- second from the right. The other three are fellow students.)

Now, I have a decision to make. There is another instructor at the school who is also a native Spanish speaker, and will be taking over Amy's classes. But she is not a trained teacher.

When it comes to classes, I am a tough act to please. If my interest is not constantly stimulated, about 20 minutes of anything leaves me bored. Bored enough that I just shut down.

The question will be whether the new instructor can keep me motivated enough to expand my class knowledge. There is only one way to truly find out: I will audition for a week.

There is also a point where I need to get out of the classroom and into the community. I have been conversing more with neighbors and local business owners. Plus I have had several successful conversations on the telephone. For me, that is a great accomplishment. I absolutely hate talking on the telephone. Whether in English or Spanish.

So, there is my fork. I will continue my classes (at least, temporarily), and I will conscientiously get out into the community more to hone those skills.

Now that I have the fork, it is time to take it.

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