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En fin•In conclusion
Hola amigos,
This will be my final blog entry re: this Spain adventure. We have been home for almost two weeks, and have even gotten over jetlag. I would like to tie up some loose ends here.

Eric did FINALLY make it to join us after the third week on the farm, and stayed/worked for a week before we bade a teary goodbye to Bea, Pablo, Elena and the kids, and to Antonio and Charo. At the time, I didn't want to write about Eric's presence, since this journal is open to everyone, and who knows...someone interested in stealing our beat-up furniture might have decided to raid the empty house...? So I apologize for leaving off like that, just when Eric was getting there.
As a whole family, we had some good times at la mas before leaving. I stayed in my corral-cleaning job and helping in various kid enterprises (and we always helped with dishes and cleaning the kitchen), and Eric was a fix-it guy and helped to put up a rudimentary fence, keeping Artax, the horse, out of the winter garden (he had already raided the potato plants, which we had to dig up before they withered underground. It was a good harvest of red potatoes! And the fresh potato-rosemary-meat stew we had the next day was heaven).
We spent our last week in Spain in a nearby resort town, Peñíscola, famous for its casco antiguo, or old town, complete with castle and various churches (I think there are 3 there, including the one within the castle), situated atop a small rock peninsula jutting out from the mainland. We opted against the long trip south to Granada. Lucia's carsickness would have made the trip unbearable, and at about eight hours by car, getting there and then later back to Madrid would have eaten up too much precious time. Fortunately this means we MUST return to Spain sometime (hopefully often) because la Alhambra awaits our visit.

1. Lucia y Ángela: Dos enemigas que se han enseñado mucho la una a la otra. Two enemies who have taught one another quite a bit.

My estimate is that there would have been at least 50% less fights between these two, had they had a native language in common. Whenever Ángela, the former oldest girl before Lucia arrived, did something that seemed unfair, Lucia would step in and physically try to fix the problem, for lack of language. This inevitably led to screaming, hair pulling, scratching, and in a few cases, rock-throwing and stick involvement... The first few of these issues were hard for Lucia, but she maintained her self-control and never lashed out to hurt the 5-year-old back. After the rock-throwing, though, she'd had it. I was removing Ángela from the group to hand her to Charo, her grandmother, when Lucia charged us with fire in her eyes, and scratched Ángela's leg. The fights, after that, became more brutal in style. Also, teams were formed, even after we had the week-long hiatus, with Ángela staying with Charo and Antonio. Ángela recruited Aitana and sometimes Raquel (who usually was preoccupied with bugs, books, or other more important things), and Lucia had Simon. I found out later that when my kids were mad at the others, they would get revenge by making off with their toys and favorite sticks, and stowing them in special hideouts at the edge of the woods surrounding the house/hotel buildings/animal pastures.

As the days, weeks, and fights progressed, however, Lucia presented her hardships to me in a slowly morphing manner. She began to substitute in more and more Spanish for English in her explanations of the fights, during our attempts to hash over the problems. I had to hide my smile, smugly grateful to Ángela, as I realized that conflict with her was a major contributor to Lucia's (and also Simon's!) language acquisition this summer. I became a second-language teacher twenty years ago. My mind is bent toward noticing and figuring out how real-life or lifelike experiences cause learners to acquire and retain language. Never in my attempts to teach had it dawned on me that fighting is, in fact, an experience capable of causing someone to learn language. Of course. Why hadn't I thought of this before? All it has to be is meaningful. No one said anything about pleasant!

2. El castellano, el catalán, y el valenciano

El castellano evolved in the center and the south of Spain: Colón and his crews brought this spanish to the Americas. There were also numerous other explorers and missionaries that came, most likely speaking a few different tongues, but the language of Castilla spread. I wonder if Ferdinand and Isabella mandated that? Whether or not they did, the people from that peninsula unknowingly left quite a legacy in this beautiful code.

Valencia is a community made up of the three provinces of Valencia, Alicante, and Castellón. Each one of these provinces has a capital city by the same name. The community is bilingual, in castellano as well as valenciano. For a long time I was unsure as to what this language entailed. I had heard that the people north, in Cataluña, made fun of el valenciano, saying it was really catalán (the regional language there in Cataluña). What I learned this time around is that el valenciano is, in fact, the same as el catalán, but for regional purposes, when one is in Cataluña, it is referred to as catalán, and when in Valencia, it is called valenciano. In the past 20-30 years, Valencian students from preschool onward are learning in a majority of valenciano these days, for fluency. I think only 30% of their learning is now done in castellano, since castellano is the predominantly spoken language throughout the country. Without this, el valenciano could go completely obsolete and things would function nearly exactly the same there. The preservation of their language, and thereby their culture, is just inspirational. I wish we embraced multilingialism in the United States like this. We as a people of many cultures would have so much more to know about ourselves.

Other regional tongues in Spain I've heard of...
The region of the Balearic islands (Mallorcan, Menorca, Ibiza y Formentera) also parlays this coastal language of valenciano/catalán, and they call it mallorquín. El asturiano (region of Asturias, in the north) is said to be going obsolete. El gallego is the secondary language spoken in the region(s) of Galicia, the northwest corner of Spain. In el País Vasco, or Euskera, el euskadi is maintained as a secondary language. This is the only language in the peninsula having no latin roots in common with the other spanish languages. The mountainous geography of the region, as well as the strong, defensive nature of the people, has warded off invaders for centuries, keeping the ancient language and customs intact.

3. Now what?

We have been home for almost 2 weeks now. I have got to keep speaking to my kids in spanish. Lucia is forgetting words. Simon is asking me less and less questions like: "What does '¿Qué pasó?' mean?". I speak occasionally with them, but still need to either commit to full-time in spanish, or at least to certain days of the week, maybe when I have them and Eric is not around. When we talked about the process of guiding them to fluency in spanish, he was concerned with not understanding our conversations. But maybe he'll just figure them out. ;)

I hope everyone has had a great summer. Thanks for reading, and if anyone has questions about second-language learning or about this trip, I am around and can check messages. ¡Que os cuidéis! (take care!)


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