My father served as a Mormon Missionary in the country of Chile in the late 1960s. In order to be very effective there, he obviously had to learn Spanish. When I was little, he would engage in various sporadic attempts to ingrain the language into our heads as well. The most frequent effort was that he would often call me or my brother "pobrecita" or "pobrecito" (poor little girl/boy) when one of us was whining about something. He'd also tell us to "Apurate! Apurate!" (Hurry up!) when we were lagging behind on a hike, or slowly dragging ourselves up to the kitchen bar for breakfast or whatever.
If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll remember about the time my family taught our whole ward the Spanish words to "Give, Said the Little Stream". That was fun as well.
The most random of the methods my father used to make us Spanish-literate though was when he decided that one day per week, he would only speak Spanish to us all. I remember how fun that was, in a weird kind of way. Eating our family evening meal was especially fun, since he'd ask us to pass him the salt or whatever in Spanish, and we didn't know what he was talking about. We'd all just laugh then. Now I look back, and I'm impressed that my mother (who doesn't speak Spanish) was willing to put up with it, and did so with such a great attitude. Anyway, as I remember, this particular Spanish immersion tactic was rather short lived, probably 3-4 weeks at the most.
So, getting to the part about me and Spanish:
I took two years of Spanish in high school, and then about 5 years later I was called on a Spanish-Speaking LDS mission. (again, if you're a regular reader to this blog, you already know this from reading this post) High school was great, but I'll admit that the motivation to study and actually learn the language was much stronger when I was faced with people who didn't understand me if I didn't get it right.
Since I returned from my mission, I've tried to keep the language in my head, with varying degrees of success. I used to be a volunteer teacher in my local literacy program, and that was helpful, since I was always assigned people who spoke little or no English, and read even less. After I got tired of that, I worked a volunteer shift a few times a month at the free medical clinic here. Many of the patients spoke little or no English, and so I was able to do a fair amount of translating. That experience was really good for me, since my Spanish vocabulary at that point didn't cover medical terminology at all.
I'm in a season now that I don't do much volunteering, and so I've had to find other ways to practice. I read Spanish Books when I'm feeling like a challenge, and I have two very good friends from South and Central America, so I speak with them in Spanish whenever I can. It works out all right. I've definitely lost some of my fluency, but I can get by, and I'm not afraid to speak when given the chance. That's pretty much been my main goal.
You may be wondering why it is so important to me that I hang on to this language. (or, maybe you're not) The truth is, it's partially because I worked dang hard to learn it, and don't want to lose it. But, that's not the main reason. (I worked dang hard to learn to play the clarinet as well, and now I doubt I could even play one scale, given the opportunity)
So, what IS the main reason I want to keep up my Spanish?
The people. I have SO much fun when I'm around a group of people whose primary language is Spanish. I don't know exactly what it is, or why it is, but I laugh more. I'm happier. I feel better about myself, and better about the world in general.
Keeping up on Spanish is such a small price to pay for such a big reward.