When my spanish skills fail me, I pick up the slack with some very interesting body language.
Learning spanish is sort of creeping up on me. I won't see it coming, but sometimes it just happens. I am not a linguist, every step is slow and difficult. Thankfully, occasionally I am surprized at what I understand. Motivation is key. For example, when I was being over charged for a bottle deposit at an almacen (like a bodega in NY) I was very quick to speak and refused the purchase. In fact, you could say that I debated with the woman. The words flowed naturally, no pauses, no searching for the proper word. But most of the time I am totally inept, grasping pathetically to finish a sentence. Understanding when others speak comes first. Speaking comes later. I am beginning to read fairly well though. For example, I can understand a movie in spanish if it has spanish subtitles. But I still cannot form the same sentence that I just read - hence the refining of my miming skills. You simply cannot be a literal person and translate in your head, because most things just do not translate. For example, we say "I will come over" and here they wouldn't use the word "come", rather they say "I will go over". You don't bring your daughter to the doctor, you carry her to the doctor. You don't pick your kids up from school, you find them from school. When you are literal, you get determined to say you will bring her, and carry just doesn't enter the mind. And why would I be looking for the kid after school, is she lost? At my tutor's suggestion I have taken to reading spanish out loud. At least then I can feel the words in my mouth.
By my inital expectations, I have failed at my task, But, on the other hand, I know more now than I did before I came here.