Friday, October 23, 2015

The Dreaded DELE

I've decided to reduce my writing schedule to every two weeks, because I've got an incredibly difficult exam coming up next month. The DELE (Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera) is a world-recognized official test proving one's Spanish level. I've been studying since the summer, although only recently did I up my game.

I don't want to reduce my writing time, because I love doing it, but this exam comes first. As it is, it's really difficult maintaining my Spanish for this level C1 exam, because of work. I spend many hours per week speaking and planning English lessons. I'm so grateful that at least I have a Spanish roomate and I go out with friends who speak Spanish with me. Although a few want to practise English, they understand that right now I'm ready to pull my hair out if I speak even one word of English outside of work.
How I look when studying
(except, not like a boy; I try to look hot, actually)
I've been using the book “El Cronómetro”, because of Cat Gaa's blog. The university has a great prep course, but it conflicts with my work. And I have yet to find someone in Jaén who's able to have private class with me to prepare. They say it's good enough to hire a native Spanish speaker, but I believe it's best to hire someone who's familiar with the exam. Many Spanish people aren't.

I'm lucky that my test is based on only one subject and relatively easy to study for. I have many friends studying like mad for their oposiciónes (national tests) in order to get work. A friend of mine, who has studied for oposiciónes before, put it this way: “Fundamentally, it's like a marathon, where it seems you'll never reach the finish line, but you must keep running.” I'm tired, but the end is almost here, so until then I'll have to put writing aside and concentrate on reaching my goal.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Learning the Ropes in a New Country

It was great meeting the new auxiliaries for this year. Fresh-faced, young, eager to start a new adventure. As a veteran, I gladly answered their questions. Because Lord knows, the people in charge won't. Every year, auxiliaries receive promises and read grandiose statements in emails, intentions against the fact that our bosses don't have time to help us. The heads of our program give us their phone numbers and email addresses, and tell us, “If there's ANYTHING at all we can help you with, contact us!”


Within a day I was receiving texts from newbies, because the organizer wasn't answering her phone. In a way, they were receiving a good lesson: in life, it's sink or swim. My first year in Spain, I almost drowned. Emails went unanswered, and when I tried to call I couldn't deal with the Andalucían speed nor accent. Bank machines spit out my Canadian card. Clicking on webpage after webpage led to dead ends and more Spanish gibberish.
This year's auxiliaries.
During my first few weeks back in 2013, I had to open a bank account and go to a specialist for surgery follow-up. I was extremely nervous about doing both alone, so my boss said she'd go with me. Only to be told one day before my appointments that she had to cancel in order to attend a parent-teacher meeting. I learned two lessons: 1) things change last-minute in this country, and 2) I will survive. Without internet on my phone, I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to figure out the complicated, two-bus journey to the tiny town where the specialist was. I made it to my appointment, the doctor spoke extremely slowly and nicely to me, and in the end I was issued a clean bill of health.

How are things two years later? I'm definitely more confident. Thanks to my time in Villacarrillo, my Spanish is a lot better. In fact, I played Scattergories with Spanish friends and came in second place! I still balk at calling – I prefer email or making the trek to talk to the person face to face. But I push hard to get a response. In a sea of unanswered requests, I know that I have to be my own life preserver.