I’ve gotten a few questions from family and friends offline about what my typical day looks like and about how language training works. I’ve been avoiding blogging about this since I started Spanish, mostly because I didn’t think anyone would really want to hear about my rather monotonous schedule. Alas, I was wrong so I thought I’d share with you a timeline of a typical day in language training.
Wake up late….reeaaallllyyyy late and spend the next 15 minutes running around the house like a crazy person trying to shower, find appropriate clothing and footwear, brew a cup of tea, pack my lunch, and find something for breakfast.
Class. We spend this hour first talking about what we did the previous evening or over the weekend and then talking about news articles. Everyone has to read and bring in a news article and then highlight new vocabulary, summarize the article, and answer questions. Now that we have enough vocab we can actually have conversations about the articles. Every week we focus on a different theme so I usually try to bring in an article that fits in with the theme but I don’t always stick with this if I find something really awesome/interesting. The 8 o’clock hour is always brutal on Mondays because all of our brains are rusty and we’re all pretty much zombies but as the week progresses we usually warm up so the first hour tends to be pretty productive.
More class. Usually for this hour we either work from our textbook, “Nuevas Rutas,” or we do readings. I like doing work from the book during this hour because my brain does a better job of processing longer readings in the afternoons. Working in the book usually involves conjugating verbs, learning new particles and prepositions, and reviewing grammar. The exercises in the book used to be largely written but as we progress in the book more and more of them are done with the audio files and are just oral. I usually do them orally first and then in writing because I’m trying to work on my spelling. Spelling in Spanish is hard sometimes because words are SO SIMILAR to English words and I sometimes have a hard time remembering which is which. There are also a couple of categories of verbs that have spelling changes in different tenses or for different pronouns so I like practicing those too.
FREEDOM…sort of. Each member of the class gets a once weekly 50 minute speaking appointment with our instructor and I prefer to do my appointments during this hour if I can. Our current instructor is really awesome during these appointments. He always steers the conversation toward something related to the theme which helps build vocabulary and also helps me to think creatively when I have to explain something that I don’t know the word for. This week we talked about immigration and immigration policy which, I’m sure you can imagine, was delightful. As I’m going to Mexico it’s really vital that I understand what we’re doing vis a vis immigration but I’m not going to lie it’s a complicated and confusing set of policies and since I haven’t taken my Consular General training yet I don’t really have a firm grasp on things.
On days when I don’t have my speaking appointment I spend this hour in the cafeteria, at a sunny table studying and eating what is either a late breakfast or an early lunch, depending on what I brought for the day. By the end of the hour the table ends up crowded with some of my awesome A-100 colleagues who are on the same schedule. The regulars at the lunch table are mostly Spanish speakers but we usually have a couple French speakers, a couple Turkish speakers, the lone Kazakh student. On lucky days we get a couple Hebrew or Arabic speakers and on really lucky days we get the lone Tamil and the lone Gujarati speaker. I love love love my lunch crew and I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get to CJ and don’t have everyone there to mock CNN’s half-ass daytime “news” stories.
Language lab. I spend this hour conjugating verbs, practicing verb tenses, watching the most ridiculously awesome Spanish telenovela geared toward teaching viewers how to speak Spanish. I’m not sure how useful this hour is for me but I’ve been trying to use it to reinforce grammar and vocabulary. Sometimes I avoid the lab and find a sunny spot to write sentences using new vocabulary or to review readings/articles but most of the time I just stay in the lab.
Class. This hour usually gets spent doing a number of short readings. Usually these are small newspaper-ish articles about various topics but usually related to the theme of the week. We get 6 or 7 minutes to read all the articles and then our teacher asks each of us to summarize one of the articles. There is usually one article that I don’t fully understand or that has a crucial vocabulary word that is new to me so I always hold my breath and cross my fingers that I don’t get assigned that article. Sometimes it works and others, well, let’s just say that this week I learned that the word botones refers to both buttons and bellhops in Spanish and it just doesn’t do to mix the two up. 🙂
More class. This hour we often play a game or we do more work from the book. I like working from the book but we’ve played a few fun games too and I don’t usually mind switching gears and doing something a little lighter, especially if the readings were particularly difficult and my brain hurts.
This officially marks the end of my day at work but we get between 1 and 3 hours of homework every night so I usually hurry home, chill for 10 or 15 minutes, and then get cracking on my homework. I almost always call my husband at work as I hike to the parking lot but I only speak to him in Spanish so that’s fun for us both. He’s taking a crazy early morning Spanish class but he spends his entire day speaking in English or occasionally Arabic so I like to think this little Spanish conversation helps him but I don’t know if it really does.
I usually finish my homework around 5 and lately I’ve been trying to go to the gym. That has not worked every night but I’m trying to get into the habit. Then once my husband gets home we spend the evening talking in Spanish as much as we can and trying to plan and prepare for another day.
Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
There are two other types of days that we get out at the FSI: Area Studies days and Admin Days. This post is already pretty long though so I’m going to keep them for a subsequent post. A subsequent post that will for real be written this week. Not in a month. I promise. 🙂