I have officially been in Santo Domingo for just over two weeks and have now had 15 days of Spanish classes at Casa Goethe (or Instituto Intercultural del Caribe) They started me in a class that is kind of like beginner plus. I joined in with another student who had started from knowing nothing and was now on his third week of classes. So, I guess technically I am now on about week number six of studies even though I’ve only been here for two full weeks.
In the past two weeks I have learned A LOT. It is actually quite amazing when I sit and look at it all, but wow do I ever still find it difficult and somedays I just want to scream! It is so hard to not be able to express myself. I feel like I am always talking like a child. I know that it comes with time, but none the less it can be frustrating.
Pretty much everything in the past two weeks has been based on verb conjugations, with a lot of new vocabulary along the way. I have learned:
The difference between time and duration
The difference between para and por (to and for or sometimes for and for)
The difference between muy and mucho (used for saying very or a lot depending on the situation)
How to ask for the time (hour) and how to give the time (hour).
Desde / Hasta – From / to (I went to school from 9am until (or to) 12:30pm.
Verb conjugations for all verbs ending in er, ar and ir
Irregular verb conjugations
Tips on how to tell the difference between an object being masculine or feminine. Often if it ends in “O” it is masculine, ending in “A” is usually feminine.
How to talk about things that I like and that I do not like (verb gustar)
Vocabulary for items / furniture in a house – table / chair / sofa / bed / mirror / stove etc.
Vocabulary for – in front / behind / in / on / left / right / under / inside / outside etc.
Vocabulary for family – mom / dad / sister / brother / in laws / aunts / uncles / nephews / nieces / grandparents etc.
All numbers – for counting and for buying items – This has been one of my biggest difficulties, but mostly in the pronunciation and in hearing the difference between words that sound similar. For example, five, fifteen and fifty sound alike in Spanish, just like they kind of do in English.
We have also done a lot of chit chat, often about the differences between our own countries and the Dominican Republic. This has been interesting because we covered US, Canada and Switzerland in our class. We also had discussions about the men in Dominican who are always calling out to the women on the street and the cultural differences between the way men / women behave in Latin America verses North America and Europe (specifically Canada and Switzerland).
A lot of our homework assignments have been directly out of our workbooks. We’ve had to fill in sentences, answer questions and conjugate verbs. We’ve also had to write paragraphs describing our family, our Dominican accommodations and then talk about our dream house.
The two Fridays that I have been here we have had excursions. The first week, our entire school (about 30 students) were split up between five instructors to head out in the area for a scavenger hunt. We had to find 10 or 12 different businesses and at each one, ask them two questions. We then had to write the answers down and hand the paper back in. Unfortunately I didn’t feel that this particular activity was much fun or a lot of use to me as I was with students who spoke a higher level of Spanish than me and it was incredibly hot for walking around for two hours!
The second Friday however, we had a great excursion to the artisan market. As our homework, we had to write about our excursion. It was the first time I was really inspired to take photos, so I will have a separate blog post / photo essay on this coming soon! Just for fun, I will also post my Spanish home work that I wrote about the market.
Overall, the most difficult thing for me has been understanding what my professor (and the locals) are saying. Spanish in general is spoken very quickly. I’m not kidding when I say often people’s lips don’t even move! I still don’t understand my professor a lot of the time, but she’s pretty good at slowing down when I get completely lost and sometimes, if necessary will explain a concept for grammar in English and then give examples in Spanish.
Some days I feel like I will never understand what the locals are saying, but the more I venture out on my own, the more I realize I can understand. I’m still scared to death to call a taxi on my own or to try and figure out how to get somewhere new via public transportation, however I can now order and pay for my own food … buy something at a store or market and ask for directions and understand the answer (if they are not too complicated)!
My teacher is encouraging me to begin writing on my blog in Spanish, but I don’t feel I’m ready yet as my level of writing is still incredibly basic. However, I hope that soon enough I will be able to so that I can interest some Spanish speaking people in following along!