Learning English Online When I Speak Spanish

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Learning English Online When I Speak Spanish

Our household has been constantly busy, time and moneywise, during the holidays. The telephone, my husband’s job, Mom’s job, Jamie’s job, the kids’ homework and the Skype chats they keep us engaged, but now they’re stuck a lot longer with me than we like.

Not only is this my sob story but it’s pretty much the same sob story Jamie, 15, is always telling me. He shares his sadness for not being able to speak English, for not having the ability to practice it, for not being able to play soccer and play video games, and all the other things English does for a kid.

So he did something about it: He made me learn English when I don’t speak Spanish.

I don’t speak Spanish well. It’s really hard to describe to someone who can’t understand, and worse, I’m not an actress who can say anything with three syllables. I’m an opinionated space force engineering professor, or lack thereof.

Jamie and I are almost always in a scene together, either seated next to each other on a couch or in a classroom, and I can get so distracted that I forget to be patient. This is how my ability to follow along in class is compromised. And when I’m translating our presence back to Spanish, I end up copying exactly what I’m being told to say. Or else I do a jerk move like I’m trying to up the words and sentences the reverse way, basically saying something stupid that’s not what I was trying to say because I was so bored and high on French wine.

So there it is: I keep forgetting to point the camera at Jamie to make sure he’s listening. I’ve just dumbed down my expectations for my kids’ grades, so that I can catch their anemic smiles when I’m losing my patience and telling them how awful they are.

The first time we tried this, I was paying attention but not paying attention all at once. As soon as I thought I was walking through the line as I said the words, Jamie had changed a word here and added one there. Which made me say it again. And again, and again. (I’m not necessarily ashamed to admit that when I was frustrated, I did find myself picking up where Jamie had left off and saying, “OH S***!” Sometimes I do it alone. Sometimes we do it together.)

But no matter how I try, the results aren’t good.

The first time I tried trying it online, I never got past the phone tree. No matter how much I insisted on going to the “contact us in English” button, it got busy for hours. There was never one place I got answered, and the person I spoke to was barely able to translate what I said. And it got worse when he didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, and if he did, he didn’t know how to help me.

So Jamie and I have decided that this effort to change the trajectory of our Spanish-only families’ day-to-day lives is for naught. Jamie will have no more children or get involved in the family you’re with or any other kind of family. Just the content-based ones — the ones you get on Netflix in any language, or through your website or through a subscription to YouTube.

Jamie (or I, ahem, he) does not want to be a father. Jamie doesn’t want to buy books or a house or have any real responsibility.

The only thing he wants is for me to be able to be with him. He said to me when we first started this crazy endeavor, “You get one ‘C’ and I get an ‘A.’”

(I’m going to have to feel something without making it real. I’m gonna have to feel a lump in my throat.)

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