¿Cómo Se Dice?

Okay, the truth is, I know how to say quite a few things in Spanish. I normally have a terrible memory, but those four years of junior high and high school Spanish must have paid off, because I've actually retained quite a bit of the language. Granted, I can pretty much only use present tense, and I've forgotten a lot of my vocabulary, but if forced to, I could survive far better in a Spanish-speaking country than I ever could in Russia.

I REALLY wanted to do the full language training course this time. For those unfamiliar with how Foreign Service language training for spouses works, I'll keep it simple: if there's room in the class, spouses can generally take the full course of language training that the employee is getting. So since John will get 5-6 months of Spanish, I can too (space permitting). Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the afternoon and morning schedules overlap for several hours, and there's no guarantee you won't be on the same schedule as your spouse. That means I'd not only have to extend Jack's day at preschool from 9-1 to 7-3, but I'd have to put Will in daycare too. We can't reasonably afford to have two kids in full-time care without me working, and you only get 20 days notice that you've made it into language training. If you have kids you know it's pretty much impossible to find full-time, long-term childcare in a few weeks. Jack's been enrolled in his preschool since January.

So at the end of the day, language training for spouses really only works if you have no kids and no job, or your kids are in school full-time. I don't fall into those categories. No language training for me. Boo.

(There's also an 8-week course, but since it's full-time as well, I don't see how that could possibly work.)

However, I REFUSE to be in the same situation I was in in Yekaterinburg. Granted, more people will speak English in Lima, and I do have far more Spanish than Russian, but if I want to work in Peru (or any future Spanish-speaking post), I need the language. It would be nice to not feel like a bumbling idiot in a foreign country for a change. I'd also like to be able to communicate with a nanny if we get one. And honestly, with so many FSOs and their family members speaking at least two, sometimes as many as four or five languages, it would be a relief not to be the only monoglot in the room.

I tried a Rosetta Stone-style program for Russian, and it just didn't work that well for me. I think I need face-to-face time with a teacher to really get the most out of language training. I did find out about an app, Duolingo, via a FS Facebook group, and I have to say I really like it so far. It's free and super easy to use. Aside from needing some refreshers on vocab, I'm tearing through the program, and by the time I'm done I think I'll be ready for a class or a tutor. I also plan to study John's materials and practice with him at home (this will also help Jack pick up the language before we leave). And once I get to post, I will take full advantage of the free tutoring for spouses.

Do any of you out there have tips for me? What worked for you to learn a language (beyond basic survival)? Ayudame, por favor!


  1. We ran into the same problem while at FSI. However, did you get your older child into the FSI daycare? Because they gave us priority for out younger child. We put her in for about 2 months so my husband could do the FAST course. He then scored well enough to get a job at post. Financially, it was a stretch, but manageable for two months.

    1. My impression was that FSI was more daycare than preschool and my son is turning 5. Do I have that wrong?


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