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  • Judy Schulten

55. Ten Years Later

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

It’s been 10 years since I wrote the small, free e-book 50 Ways To Have Fun With Your Bad Spanish. It was mostly memoir because I’d done all the fifty ways, but I hoped to encourage other people.

It was fun to write. The project was guided and encouraged from the start by our daughter Sara McCabe. She provided the technical help I needed. Even more, she had the larger vision. “This should be a blog,” she said, ”You could draw illustrations.” Recently she said, “It’s been ten years. What would you say now?"

So here are four thoughts after ten years:

1. People are different.

Originally, our grandson had advised, “Think of one person you’re writing to.” My imaginary person was Bob. He was 40ish, with a family and a small business. He was an outgoing person who talked to many people every day. He liked to laugh. I was sort of in love with Bob.

Ten years later I’ve met a lot of real people in the big world of Spanish. Some are Bob, but many are not. Many people want first of all to be sure of themselves. They want their sentences to be correct. They want to know the English meaning of every word. They prefer the security of a book and a workbook. They want a teacher with credentials. They are not wrong and they enjoy Spanish, but they are not comfortable with my casual approach.

Just such a person was my neighbor Bill. He had hired a Spanish teacher, and was well beyond beginner. He liked to say Buenos dias and ¿Como estas?. Nothing more. One night at a party, I asked him, “Want to speak Spanish for fun?” It was late; we’d had several drinks. “Let’s tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood.”

He started off really well, using whatever verb tense he could manage, inventing ways to keep the story going. We were laughing together at our efforts. Suddenly he became serious and said, “You’re laughing at me.” I had embarrassed him; this was not real Spanish. Real Spanish was textbook Spanish, correct Spanish.

Now I don’t try to force casual conversation in Spanish on friends who clearly prefer a more disciplined approach.

2. The internet has expanded enormously.

The internet has everything. It’s convenient and attractive. In the last ten years, it’s made even more of a difference in our lives, but it has not made a difference in my original advice. If you want to speak Spanish confidently in real time, you still must make yourself do just that.

3. I’m still speaking bad Spanish.

It’s pretty clear to me that I’m not going to do the work to improve my Spanish. I’m content in my comfort zone, relaxing into the old errors. I'm not as bold as I once was,and I’ll never be sure of the command form of venir.

But I have fun with my bad Spanish, and it thrills me to have a conversation in Spanish with just about anyone.

4. Two big ideas remain true.

Big idea one is like the famous Nike slogan, “Just Do It.” You must bravely use whatever Spanish you have right now, and do it in a real situation where the goal is communication.

Big idea two is you must meet (a) regularly with (b) one conversation partner and (c) speak only Spanish. This is still the surest way to acquire confidence and fluency.

Y ahora, adelante y buena suerte!

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