Today included, I have thirteen days to prepare for my upcoming Spanish examination. Over the years, I have this recurrent dream. In this dream, I would be inside an examination hall staring at exam questions that I have no clue on how to answer. And it is always this sense of anxiety that wakes me up. If I am to trace the root cause of this nightmare, it would likely be pointing to the time period when I was studying for my degree. You see, in my four years direct master course, I only had three examinations. In addition, only the last two mattered. There was no examination at the end of the second year. In theory, one could be bumping around for three years only to face the brutality of a series of tests in the span of a couple of weeks that determined one’s future. You can imagine the boiling pressure. No wonder we have so many pubs within the university perimeter, thanks to student’s syndrome.
How do you study for an examination? For me, I often start with a timetable, laying out what I need to do on paper. Systematically work through the activities and assuming that the plan is good (it has to be), everything is going to be OK. This time is different. For a start, after close to three years of learning Spanish, I am still hovering at the basic level of hi-how-are-you and my-name-is-so-and-so. I may have learned a lot along the way. But language is a skill that if you don’t use it, you don’t have it. So I am doing some soul searching lately, on the things that I suck when it comes to Spanish. I am looking beyond this upcoming exam and am looking at where my Spanish learning journey is heading. I think I have been bumping around for a bit too long.
Our Spanish teacher has a beautiful way to describe the necessity of learning grammar; something to do with the structure of discourse; something to do with the expression of one’s wisdom. Lately, I have been reading about communicating grammar in a discourse level. I am no linguist or learning expert. The jest of it, from what I have internalized, is that learners should interact naturally in a real communication act. Since Cynthia is also learning Spanish (she is the reason why I am in this deep pool of español), we should use each other as a practice target communicating on topics that we have no idea where they are coming from (versus artificial learning environment whereby we know what is to come). Why haven’t I thought of that? I could talk about the monthly S$7 lunch special at my canteen today. I could talk about the pumpkin soup, assorted German sausages, sauerkraut, potato glatini, salad, black forest cake, and a drink I had today. I could talk about the friendly patrol attendant I met today, whom was surprised that I know the timing of their shifts. He would be surprised had he know that I also know besides pumping petrol, he has to clean the kiosks and clean the toilets. I could talk about this lovely song I heard over the Spanish Internet radio station while I was stuck in the traffic this morning. I wrote down the lyrics and it went something like “deep inside you cry cry cry, don’t let your hope die die die”. I could talk about how I love Google because with a mere fragment of lyrics, it tells me that the song is by Oceana and it is called “Cry Cry”. I could talk about how I am determined to memorize the verb conjugation, to relearn something basic such as numbers, seasons, and days of the week, to practice Spanish using the two textbooks we have bought and have yet used, and to inject some Spanish vibes into my head through the Spanish Internet radio every day from now till March 8.
OK. It is time to do some serious research on how to say all of the above. Be right back.