So far, I found writing to be the best way to take a long and honest look at the actual amount of vocabulary I am able to use in order combine words into sentences.
Not so long ago (about a year or so), a horrible realization has come down upon me that after being passively immersed into English for many years, I still struggle with speaking. Not because I am shy (well, I am, but that’s beside the point) or don’t have enough vocabulary. Right on the opposite, I actually have too many words and expressions in my head, and I have never used any of that treasure!
Hello, my name is Roman and I’m an addict
This is why I call myself a language addict. Speaking English (or Spanish, for that matter) very frequently is like a drug to me, not a thoughtful and intelligible process. Whenever I speak Russian, my native tongue, I might either grumble out a few words or break into a long tirade. Lately, I’ve been doing the latter in order to develop a skill of expressing my thoughts coherently and passionately (which is more have to do with my shyness or whatever, rather than with the actual language skills).
But when I start speaking English, I pull out all the stops and can ramble on for hours. I did it a couple of times recently at the local English speaking meetings organized at CouchSurfing.
It is an insanely powerful and exhilarating feeling but, as I tried to put in one of the previous essays, it also has its disadvantages. I get ahead of myself and end up halting half-way through the sentence because I forgot more exquisite and sophisticated word I wanted to use, and its more humble and down-to-Earth brother just doesn’t work as well. This brings out the “umms…”, “oh, let’me rephrase this…”, “whatchamacallit” and other verbal horrors that better be left unsaid.
This is what happened at a language-skills assessing interview I had the previous week. Sure, I spoke nothing but English for a good twenty minutes and an extremely nice and understanding girl ensured me that she wasn’t taken aback by my rambling at all.
As I got out of the coffee shop, fresh and frosty air of St. Petersburg during the winter filling my lungs, I woke up from a drug-induced dream sequence, that is speaking English for me, and told myself (probably even out loud, weirding out humble pedestrians in the closest proximity): “What the hell were you rambling on about in there, man?”.
And that is not even the saddest part of the tale. In the end we went on to talk a little bit in Spanish, and I struggled to put together several coherent thoughts.
Over the last few months my comprehension skills of Spanish increased greatly through constant immersion. However I’ve found out that I can’t start speaking Spanish out of the blue like that. Only after I spent the entire day in Spanish, my mind rushing with images of fiestas, señoritas, Buenos Aires and lyrics of Ojos de Brujo, Amparanoia and Aterciopelados.
This is all because the vocabulary I have is never put to a good use. This has to change.
I am fairly sure that my idea is utterly unoriginal, but I hope it will do the trick. I created a Twitter account for myself (romand_es), where I will be writing a single coherent phrase in Spanish every day. If I get the hang of it, I will do it more often. I sure am hoping that I will.
I will also add cool language lovers, fellow Spanish addicts and hablantes nativos in order to eventually get some conversation going.
Picture by shnnn