While grammar rules in the English language have always come easily to me, I remember having a terrible time trying to get through my first semester of Spanish at PSU Berks. I came to college thinking I would major in Communications because, although I loved science, I was deathly afraid of Calculus (which I had to take if I wanted to major in science). I figured I’d be better of trying to make it through Spanish 1 and 2 rather than Calculus 1 and 2. I found out that I was wrong. I would much rather deal with an upper level math course where my answer will be correct in every part of the world rather than a language where grammatical rules can change depending on what side of a country I am on.
I knew Spanish would be challenging for me because the classes I had in high school did not prepare me for any other Spanish classes I would take in college. I remember as the semester came to an end we were asked to write a paragraph about ourselves, in Spanish, and recite it to the class from memory. It only had to be 10 sentences long and it could contain any information that we wanted to share.
I decided to write my paragraph out in English first so that I could get my main ideas down. When I wrote the paragraph I had 10 complex, in depth, and detailed sentences, which I then had to translate. As I started to translate my paragraph I started noticing that some of the words I have chosen in English didn’t translate into Spanish…some of the Spanish words I came across were incredibly hard for me to pronounce… I couldn’t even begin to focus on correct grammar……it was a disaster. I was really frustrated because in English I had a good, solid, 10 sentence paragraph about myself, but in Spanish I had a mess of words that I couldn’t pronounce.
I ended up writing out ten simple sentences that I knew were correct and that I knew I’d be able to say to my class.
– I like to dance
– My dog’s name is Jersey
– I have one brother and one sister
I really had to make my writing in Spanish simple so that it was correct. I think, as a tutor, I would help students who do not speak English as their first language by explaining that it is important to get the basics down first. Even though they might understand grammar in their language, English tenses, person, and sentence arrangement can be completely different. I think it requires a lot of patience to pull apart the differences between English and another language, but it is that patience that will make a non-English speaking student successful in future writing.