Linguistics, Literature in Translation and my Attempt to Learn Spanish


I took two years of Spanish in high school, so I can speak it about as well as most Americans who took any foreign language for two years (somewhere between “not at all” and “very, very badly”, leaning heavily toward “not at all”). A good friend is making a dedicated effort to learn this year. Since this is something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now (even when I lived in China and had no desire to learn Mandarin; make of that what you will) I’m publically declaring my intent. I’ll be using Duolingo, which I played with a little bit around a year ago, and trying my best to avoid embarrassing myself when I attempt broken conversation with native Spanish speakers.

Language acquisition and linguistics are extremely difficult for me. This isn’t an easy thing to admit; I did my undergrad minor in general linguistics and taught ESL in Beijing. I’m a mid-grade polymath and pretty intelligent, but in spite of my love of linguistics I have to work twice as hard at it to make the same kind of progress I would with any other discipline. For years, this difficulty has kept me from trying hard enough to make any worthwhile progress.

I want to be able to speak and read Spanish, at least on a level that makes imperfect/broken communication possible. I don’t need to be able to translate Bolaño myself, but I want to be able to read a simple paragraph or communicate a basic idea in conversation.



  1. Try using the hello talk app. I have many language partners from Spain. They want learn English just as bad as you want to learn spanish. They also correct you if you make mistakes. Keep going man.


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