As readers of this space know, I am just about four months into my new job at Hoy.
It’s been a huge challenge and major pleasure.
While I had taught myself to speak Spanish to a certain level of competence before I started, I learned quickly how far I had to go to become truly proficient in speaking, reading and writing.
I’ve seen the progress I’ve made in the first two, and the third has been the hardest thus far.
For the first few months, my strategy has been to write in English first, take a stab at translating, put the remainder in Google Translate, do my best to edit what turns up, give it to my colleagues and wait for their eyebrows to raise in confusion and the “Non entiendos” to start.
I’ve been publishing work since my fourth week at Hoy, and have been sticking with this method throughout.
The upside is that I’ve started writing earlier than I had predicted.
The downside of course is that I’m not truly learning to write as well as I could.
In the past couple of weeks, Fernando has been pushing me to start writing in Spanish first.
Today, I did that, for a new section we are about to launch tomorrow.
I don’t want to get into too many details, as to do so would potentially spoil the surprise of what we are doing, and the big thing for me was that I wrote a 500-word piece that, to be fair, included a number of quotes, in less than an hour.
I know Octavio’s going to look at it tomorrow morning. I know my vocabulary remains quite limited. And I know that my sentences in Spanish have as their goal simple communication, rather than art or evoking emotion.
Yet I also know that I did it, that I pushed myself and that I continue to make small steps in areas that I have not done before.
Of the many gifts that Paul Tamburello gave me, one of the biggest was a framework to be able to understand progress.
He would do this by pointing out to students that they had written three sentences in a paragraph whereas a month earlier they had only written two.
He would have the students chart their progress on the Timed 100s, showing them that their times would go down while their scores would go up.
This way of marking progress that at times can seem invisible when one is seeking a destination has stayed with me since.
While I did not think consciously of my time in his fourth grade classroom while writing the piece today for Hoy, that framework has become like a familiar piece of clothing that fits easily onto my body.
I’ll go back tomorrow to learn more and, perhaps, to write more.
But as I prepare to stretch and to wind down for tonight, I do so with the knowledge that I today moved toward greater levels of sufficiency and proficiency in a language I taught myself and in which I often cannot believe it is my good fortune to work.