I was driving down to San Antonio today to pick up a camera from my parents. On the way, I had an interesting thought.
I was sitting in traffic. I was thinking about my pending move to South America. I made a metaphor. In thinking about living in Ecuador, Bolivia, or wherever I end up, one thing I haven't really considered much is the language difficulty. My spanish is fairly utilitarian, and I've always dreamed of the day upon which my personality, humor, and intelligence will translate in spanish.
I began to think of my options for linguistic opportunities and rigour of communication. That is to say that there is a continuum which represents the gamut of opportunities I'll have down there, spanning from near hermitude to spending my every waking moment speaking and listening to spanish.
Here's where it gets interesting. Even if I chose to spend nearly all of my time in my room, listening to music and podcasts in english, looking at the internet in english, and finding english speakers as comrades, I cannot render my brain impermeable to the effects of spanish. Even with the most self-exclusionary life, I will be moving ahead, either in pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary.
Here's the relation to traffic. My development in spanish is as the car on the road. There are opportunities to advance one's situation in traffic. Should one decide to take such opportunities, one can conceivably make a bad decision as well. Sometimes the traffic will clear, and one's car will have open access to speeds only possible in the mind, for there are scant limitations. Other times, at vritual standstills, the driver will be frustrated, feel overwhelmed, and want to exit the expressway. Ah, but even with these possibilities, there is one constant...at least in normal circumstances. One must always be moving forward. The moment in which one decides to back up is the moment in which an accident will occur. Therefore, regardless of the speed at which we're reaching our destination, or rather attempting to approach our destination, for the destination is realistically unreachable, we're constantly approaching. No matter what. There's no reverse on the road to bilingualism...at least not til I get back to the states.