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When you are a busy practicing attorney in the fourth decade of your professional law practice, learning a new language is probably a bit more challenging than doing so when you are a child. Or so I have concluded. But one of my great desires is to gain some fluency with Spanish.
So, I am working on it, and integrating my efforts into my daily work-life as well.
Here's what I have done, and what I am doing. I signed up for and took all the Spanish classes that were available at Clark Community College (two years and 30 credits worth), which I finished in 2010. I practice Spanish whenever I can with my two adult children (whose own interests in the language and travel exploits were the catalyst for my own desire to learn Spanish). I practice with my Spanish-speaking amigos whenever I can. And I learn from listening to our Hispanic clients when they come into the office. I have been lucky enough to have had about five to ten native Spanish speakers as clients (with respect to their personal injury claims) at any given time over the last several years.
I also listen to radio and watch movies as I have time to in Spanish. I have read one novel “Cajas de Carton” in Spanish, bits and pieces of poetry and several short stories in Spanish, and I am laboring through yet another reading of my all-time favorite novel, “The Old Man and the Sea”, once again in Spanish. For several years I have dutifully listened to a number of episodes of a podcast called “Notes in Spanish, Intermediate”, and to a very basic program called “Drive-Time Spanish” (and other self-tutorials) on CD, whenever I had to drive anywhere alone. I have tried writing – short stories as well as a brief history of my childhood – in Spanish, but those attempts didn't get too far off the ground, and now they are just projects that will have to await me gaining a better sense of how the language should be used before I try again to finish them. And, I've gone fishing in remote parts of Mexico where English was rarely understood, as well as traveled by bus and train to and through six cities in Spain, in the hope that short bursts of “immersion” might speed me to a level of comfort with understanding and speaking Spanish.
But even with all of the above, I felt that I was beginning to lose what progress I had made toward being able to converse passably in Spanish, as time passed from the completion of my second year of my Clark College Spanish classes. So to try to prod my daily exposure to the language along, our Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards PS law firm hired a bilingual paralegal, Katie Maldonado, in December of last year. Having a fluent Spanish speaker in the office every day is great. She not only helps immensely with translating during my meetings and interviews with Hispanic clients and witnesses, but she has assumed the task of trying to help me become fluent in Spanish. In that regard, she tries to spend part of each workday conversing with me in Spanish. Some of the emails she sends me every day are written in Spanish (and I try to reply in Spanish at times of course too). And, she challenges me with Spanish vocabulary assignments, and pop quizzes, from time to time during the workweek.
Finally, my son recently purchased for me the Rosetta Stone Spanish computer program, and I am excited to try to start working that program, which has a great reputation and looks promising from a first foray into it, at least several times a week on top of everything else.
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. All I can say to that is, I won't quit until I am capable of speaking and understanding conversational Spanish. That, and, thank heavens I'm not an old dog!
[The law firm of Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards PS welcomes contacts from and referrals of Spanish-speakers as well as persons of any other language, race, or culture. Attorney Bill Thayer and paralegal Katie Maldonado are our Spanish speakers. Attorney Scott Edwards speaks Portuguese with some degree of fluency (he lived in Brazil for two years). Attorney Jeff Jacobs is learning Italian, Russian, and has a basic working knowledge of Greek and German also. The law firm of Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards PS handles personal injury (including auto, motorcycle, truck, bicycle, and pedestrian accident cases, and dog-bite cases), and wrongful death cases.]