My husband brought me a chocolate crescent from a French bakery today and as I prepared my coffee, it brought me back to when I was 19 and in Spain. All I needed were the cute tiny fork and knife that they give to you to eat it with, and a glass of fresh squeezed zumo de naranja to top it off. So I reflect on being 19 and struggling through ordering a chocolate crescent in Spain (and struggling through consuming bitter coffee before I learned to order it with dulce de leche. Now, I consume way too much coffee of any type, and I definitely don't struggle through it!
I realize through my reflections that it has been 12 years since I have been back to Spain, and almost three since I have been to a Spanish speaking country, and I know from listening to my Spanish as I speak with my level I and II students that it is getting rusty. It is hard to keep the language fresh when teaching exclusively in the younger grades, and when the language department doesn't have the culture of speaking the language amongst itself (which is highly unfortunate, as I have worked in places that do use the language between department members and I think that it provides great role-modeling for the students).
So, what is one to do to keep language fresh? I try to listen to the news regularly, but I'll admit, I get busy and don't always keep it up. I also watch children's shows both with my students and my child, but they only offer so much. I watch music videos, and ask the native Spanish speakers at my school questions-especially when it comes to slang words, which of course teenagers love to use, but I don't know many current ones anymore. When possible, I listen to Spanish radio. I also read other language teacher's blogs in order to obtain ideas as to how to stay more current, and when possible attend conferences.
However, nothing compares (at least in my mind) to the real deal of sitting down in that café ready to relax with a chocolate crescent and coffee that was successfully ordered, paid for, and a side-conversation about where I am from was even had, and it is this feeling, this ability to communicate and enjoy while in a different country that is most important to me to convey to students when they ask "why?" Until I can get back there, I will continue working on my Spanish, just as I ask students to work on theirs. What do you do to keep the language fresh?