This is what I imagined was going on in the heads of the native Spanish speakers at my Meetup.com Spanish conversation group last night. There were two folks from Mexico, one from Columbia and one from somewhere in Central America, I didn’t quite catch it. The rest of us, about 10 or so, were native English speakers and present for the sole purpose to practise our Spanish.
Why, I was asking myself (and a couple of the English speakers as well) would a native Spanish speaker come to a Spanish conversation group? The answers I got from all of us were rather vague. “Well, here they get to talk to other Spanish speakers.” Ya but, aren’t they already connected with family and friends in the area that speak Spanish? “This is a chance for them to practise their English.” I don’t think so, I am not uttering a word of English during this meeting. I am here to speak Spanish, period.
So I am turning this around in my brain. The Spanish we English speakers spoke was pretty good, though not without it’s mistakes. The topics I participated in or could overhear were rather cursory, pleasant enough but not earth shakingly deep or stimulating. So why did they come? I found myself obsessed to distraction with this question and I must admit that my Spanish suffered a bit for the burden of it. They couldn’t have come for the English as there was a woeful lack of that going on. And they couldn’t have been there for the Spanish. They couldn’t have been there for the intellectual stimulation unless talk about talking Spanish in Spanish rocked their world. I strained to see if they were glazing over while being spoken to by one of us and to my astonishment, I can’t say that they seemed to be. It appeared as though they were actually enjoying themselves.
After these initial unprofitable evaluations, I got a little self-conscious thinking, oh no, they are here for the entertainment factor. They feel better about ‘their’ Spanish when they heard us speak ‘our’ Spanish. That’s it, right? But I worked hard to reconstitute that Sunday school lesson about always believing the best about people and fought back my paranoia knowing that the this unfair projection had way more to do with my own insecurity. After all the “entertainment factor” would be equal to that of a …., of a….., hmmm, I really can’t think of anything quite so boring.
So, my conclusion is that it was fun. All in all, it was fun. I think the people there were just people wanting to speak Spanish because they love the language and the people and culture and want to hang out with people that feel the same. And the presence of native Spanish speakers? Well they are still a bit of a mystery to me, but they were friendly and open and joyfully interactive and I have to thank them for hanging with us. Though I can’t in a million years imagine myself going to an English conversation group to talk English with a bunch of English lovers that want to practise speaking, I am grateful that the whole world is very definitely not like me.
I am going to another one of these meetings with a different group of folks on Saturday and interestingly enough I am bringing two young Peruvian friends that are passing through on their way back home to Lima. Though after writing this post, I am not sure why they would find this at all interesting. Still, I think in some way, mysterious to me, they will enjoy themselves, and sincerely so.
On another note: I have received feedback that it would be better for many of the readers of this blog for me to write my posts in English and so I will write the majority of them in English. However, El Club de Libros will still be written in Spanish. (by the way, Luis will be writing his comments on the reading up to page 133 a bit later, so be watching for it) I will also be starting a Video club. Here we will take a week to watch a Spanish Language film. The idea is the same as it is for the the Book Club. We will watch it by a specified date and comment on it. When I announce the first film we will be watching together, I will also offer humble suggestions about how we can break down our comments…..though, please know that the sky is the limit here. Whatever impacts you about the film is fair game. I will write this one as well in English, but I will use Spanish when it is important to illustrate or illuminate something. Fair enough?
Luis is in the process of putting up a new Podcast as I write this, so be watching for it; “Supertramp y su musica en Latinoamerica”. It is about how the music of his youth influenced his life in Peru. Interestingly, this music came from the US and the UK.
Our goal with our Blog, our Podcast and our Videos is to give a multifaceted access to the Hispanic language and culture so that as you are learning the language, you are exposed to the details and the context and you are ever able to understand and be understood in more complex ways. Hasta el próximo….. – Joan videos y podcasts