September 11, 1994
"Hola! " "Bienvenida a la primero dia de la clase de Espanol. " ("Welcome to the first day of
Spanish class." "Okay, I wonder if my instructor realizes that thiis is Spanish 101, not 102." I figured that I was in for
a bit of a challenge when I signed up for this class, but I never imagined that learning a foreign language could make me
second guess my competence. Speaking Spanish may sound desirable, but those four credits I earned last semester where the
hardest ones to acquire. There never seemed to be any relief in this class. All the way from in class lectures, to homework
assignments, to tests, I struggled.
In class, we were rewarded cards (tokens) for each correct
response. My initial reaction was, "Great, I can play this game." I then remembered how in fourth grade our teacher used to
have flash card drills to help us learn arithmetic. I was always one of the quickest to blurt out the correct response. However,
the confidence I gained from this fond memory died as soon as the questions spoken in Spanish began. Senora Jarvis looked
at me and said, "De donde eres tu, senorita?" I thought, "I de donde know." But after three tries, I finally managed to tell
her that I was from Colorado. Later in the semester, we were taught to write complete sentences on the board describing our
families, jobs, and interests. I would have preferred to sit out on most of the class participation in order to spare myself
the embarrassment, but I was depending on it for 25% of my semester grade.
As if sitting
through an hour of class four times a week wasn't agonizing enough, the homework required even more brain power, and an endless
amount of time. Memorizing the vocabulary was by far the easiest things to do, but after memorizing 400 words in Spanish with
the correct spelling, I lost my desire to speak them. For every chapter, a three page workbook assignment had to be completed
along with five additional assignments from the text book. Completing these assignments would take about an hour and a half
each night. For the most part, I didn't mind taking the time for these assignments because I knew that if I could complete
them, I'd have a chance of passing our biweekly tests. In addition to reading and writing our homework assignments, we practiced
along with a tape, pronouncing the new vocabulary words in the correct sentence structure. Oh what a joy to learn how to speak
Spanish. Sometimes I wondered if my "rrrrs" would ever sound the way Profesora Jarvis' did. In spite of all of this studying,
it was still necessary to me to meet with a tutor twice a week to smooth out the rough areas. Was all of my time and sweat
going to be worth the grade I would receive? By now I should have been prepared for what Mrs. Jarvis calls a "Mickey Mouse"
quiz, but those tests had me pulling my hair out.
Each test was to be completed in twenty
minutes. During this time we had to answer five oral questions. It was hard enough trying to figure out what she was saying,
but then we had to write our response in Spanish. Next we filled in the missing vocabulary word to fifteen sentences. Then
we had to translate ten questions and sentences from English to Spanish. It took every morsel of recall for me to be able
to complete a test. Even though Senora Jarvis referred to these tests as quizzes, they were worth 45% of our grade. In the
same way our final was very difficult because it covered a whole semester of material. Overall, there were just a few differences
between our tests and the final. This time when she asked us the oral questions we had to respond verbally on an individual
basis. That part of the final was worth 100 points or 10% of our semester grade, and the written part was worth 200 points
or 20% of our semester grade.
Needless to say, the desire I had to learn to speak Spanish
required a lot of time and discipline. But in spite of the effort I put forth, I still received a "B" for Spanish 101.
Through my hard work, I did gain the ability to carry on a simple conversation in Spanish. And if I'm honest with myself,
that was my goal going into this class. So, whether I earned an "A," "B," or earned a "C," I consider my goal accomplished.
I'm speaking Spanish, and I earned four credits doing it.