The last five weeks of Spanish since I’ve returned from Ecuador have been characterized by three things: the holidays, getting sick, and the pressure of my formal pre-end of training evaluation.
It almost feels like I have been out of class more than I’ve been in class lately.
When I came home from my language immersion experience in Ecuador, it was less than 48 hours from Christmas Eve. I was preoccupied with unpacking, doing laundry, wrapping presents, looking at the holiday cards and mail that had arrived in my absence, and making traditional holiday foods.
V got up and went to work every day, however, FSI was closed between December 23 and January 1 for language students so I was on independent study rather than leave. I told myself, I should study. And sometimes I did. I had a whole pre-approved independent study plan (ISP) filled with tasks to capitalize on what I’d learned during my 1:1 immersion, and progress my grammar, speaking, and listening comprehension on my own.
But I didn’t feel like doing those things. I felt like listening to the “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” podcast, going to the gym, walking in the cold, and lazing around in bed glued to Netflix (always with Spanish subtitles!). I finished my Ecuador blog post series. I spent untold hours scrolling through Facebook posts from the hundreds of wildlife carers and sanctuaries in Australia that I follow and crying buckets about koalas with burned foot pads, birds that fell dead from trees due to smoke inhalation and heat exposure, and kangaroos fleeing flames through barbed wire. Not to mention the news of thousands of homeowners who lost everything and were still out there trying to help their neighbors.
For some reason, doing even simple tasks seemed absolutely exhausting. It took me until 2020 to wrap gifts from Ecuador for my family in California and actually mail them. Sometimes even unloading the dishwasher seemed like a monumental task. I would lay down, and awake with a start hours later wondering what happened. People said, “Of course you’re exhausted! The immersion sounded exhausting! Language study full-time is exhausting!” And thusly I kind of studied and kind of didn’t study during weeks 16 and 17.
New Year’s Day passed. When I returned to class for week 18, I found out that not only had we all changed classes AGAIN (for the third time) and I had a new teacher and classmates (one of whom I had studied with previously and two with whom I’d been on the immersion), but that my formal pre-end of training evaluation loomed in six days. Apparently notifications had been sent, but mine never came. I combed through a mountain of email and sure enough – it wasn’t there. I don’t usually miss emails, especially emails with a subject line that goes something like LANGUAGE TRAINING UNIT (LTU) EVALUATION SCHEDULED in all caps!
Anyway, I got accustomed quickly to my new class but kind of panicked myself a little bit with the amount of procrastination I engaged in prior to my evaluation. We’d had informal assessments in week 6 (October) and week 12 (November), both within the Spanish Department, and in both cases I’d come out ahead. For the first assessment I’d needed a 1+/1+, and I got a 2/2. For the second I’d needed a 2/2, and I got a 2/2+. I was pissed because I knew had I not been sick I could have achieved a 2+/2+, but I let it go because I was still on track.
But this evaluation would be inside the LTU, where I hadn’t been since I took my Russian End of Training Test (EOT) in 2015. We would be shooting for the 2+/2+, and the level of formality would be high. It would not be only audio-recorded but also video-recorded, and it would be the last stage in determining if students were on track for the EOT during week 24, in mid to late February when our course ends. Of course, for the EOT we would need to earn a 3/3 or face a six week extension in Spanish training that would completely hose up other training and PCS plans already pinned down.
I was nervous the morning of my evaluation, in week 19. I had been sick off and on and missed more class. I had been laying around in the fetal position with my eyes closed worrying about it all. I felt like I should have done more, and then I simultaneously felt like my Spanish has gotten to the point where I can talk about things on the fly and not rely so much on prepared or memorized remarks. But would I have the right vocabulary? Would I get hit with another vertigo attack? Would I open my mouth to answer a question and suddenly realize I don’t actually speak a word of Spanish?
No, none of those things happened. I talked about my biography, news and current events, my experiences living abroad, I made a presentation, I facilitated an interview, and I read and summarized eight articles. It wasn’t fun, or easy, and of course later I kept thinking of stuff like Why didn’t I say this or Why didn’t I say that but it wasn’t terrible. I felt like I had been professional and done my best to be at least a little interesting to talk to, especially when I talked about Americans kidnapped and held hostage in the Middle East. And when I went home later that day after class, I fell into a deep sleep, and awoke to an email with my score: 2+/2+.
Solid. Can I make it to a 3/3 in less than a month? Maybe if I can stay awake, stop getting viruses and infections, and keep making it in to class. Vamos a ver. (Let’s see.)