What’s both helpful and difficult about practicing Spanish in Puerto Rico is that in San Juan, where we live, a solid 80% or more of the people are bilingual – like really bilingual. You can start out speaking Spanish to someone, rummaging around your brain for the words, but they’ve already switched to English because you’re taking too long. As long as you stick to cities and major towns, you could easily navigate Puerto Rico without learning any Spanish at all.
But that’s no way to live, so we are now in the midst of our third week of Spanish classes. They were surprisingly difficult to secure. You can’t swing a (purely proverbial) dead cat around here without running into an advertisement for English classes, but since everyone already speaks Spanish there’s not nearly as much availability.
Luckily we were able to locate private tutors, which come in a symbiotic set: Eddie is a native Spanish speaker and Geraldine is originally a French native who now speaks Spanish and English; she serves as our bridge both in language and in her ability to get into the mindset of a non-native speaker.
Much of the class is precisely what you’d expect: some verbs, some tenses, some practice. What really makes it valuable is the opportunity to converse in Spanish, slowly, groping to say what you want to say with the words you have and then finding out from the teachers if you made any sentences worth keeping for later.
Meanwhile Minxie and Ruffian have learned no Spanish whatsoever. They are cultural ignoramuses. ¡Las gatitas son tonta!