Valentine’s Day reality check (Day 35)

Saturday night, 8pm. Rain falling heavily outside. We’re tired from a day out exploring Düsseldorf, ready to unwind; lucky and grateful to get a table in the busy Brauhaus. The Kellner is plying us jovially enough with 1€ glasses of Alt but keeps blowing us off whenever we ask when we can order food. Each time he returns he has a new, cheesy joke in his limited English. We’re getting pretty peeved. He placates us by reminding us matter-of-factly, “it’s peak time, you can either continue waiting here or start all over again somewhere else”. We’re starving and starting to bubble with discontent. One more bad joke and I let loose on him in a flutter of German! Something about politeness, common courtesy… Very respectful and classy, of course ha ha.

On Valentine’s Day I went to Instituto Cervantes to get my Spanish level roughly assessed (official DELE exams cost a lot of money so I want to know which level to attempt). It was an important wake-up call for me. The academic coordinator put me at about the B2 level and identified two main things to work on: First, I can express myself effectively but often make grammatical errors. Second, I think a lot before I speak and lack the smoothness and spontaneity associated with fluency. Besides that, she was impressed by my ability and interest, and I had few problems understanding her and keeping up in our conversation.

I wrote before that I was aiming to reach C1/Advanced during my 90 days but, after being forced to think about it, I’m not surprised to hear I’m not there yet. Given I’ve made the transition to C1 once before with German, I should have seen this coming. At C1, you can manipulate a language to convey your precise meaning with ease, so used are you to its intricacies. At B2, you don’t quite have that suppleness, that flexibility, that ability to succinctly explain your grievances to the rude waiter. I’m certainly not disappointed, though. To reach B2 without spending any significant time in a Spanish-speaking country is already a great achievement. At this level I have built strong foundations. I can already have meaningful conversations, and access interesting and enjoyable content.

I would like to sit for a DELE in April (as I planned when I started this 90 Day Challenge) as I might not be able to build up such a head of steam with Spanish for a while. And if I do, I will definitely be attempting the B2 Diploma. However, I know that it will be difficult to continue practicing intently when I get devoured by Honours next week. It’s going to be a watch-this-space situation as other areas of my life will have to be given priority.

To finish up, a quick update on my activities:

  • I have started making my input activities more active by writing short pieces in Spanish about what I read and listen to, getting it corrected in italki, and later reviewing the feedback.
  • I will be going back through grammar explanations and exercises to help me to notice and work on my problem areas. I bought two new books from Abbeys which I might review in the future.
  • I haven’t been to any Meet Ups lately but that’s still something I’m targeting. In any case, I will be coordinating conversation groups for the Sydney University Spanish and Latin American Society on Tuesdays this semester and that should get me speaking more.

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