Some good friends of ours are hosting a 12-year-old orphan from Columbia for the summer, so we here in the Darwin clan have all been doing our parts at trying to pick up a little Spanish. I have no good explanation as to why I never picked up much of any Spanish before. Growing up in Los Angeles, with one of my parents of Mexican ancestry, I somehow managed to pick up less Spanish than MrsDarwin did growing up in Cincinnati. I think that because Spanish was so omnipresent in Southern California, learning it never seemed like the sort of exclusive knowledge that fascinated me. Being able to say "I speak Spanish" didn't so much say "intellectual" as "works in construction".
Learning a spoken, modern language which is so directly related to Latin, has been interesting. Reading through a grammar text (more familiar to my Wheelock-formed Latin background) while listening to Pimsleur conversational language records is an interesting contrast, and leaves we wondering what the differences are between how grammar is presented to natives in elementary and high school grammar versus in a formal language acquisition course for outsiders.
I'm curious if any of our readers know: Would one sit down and study the forms of first, second and third conjugation verbs as a native Spanish speaker? Are the conjugations even formally named except by non-native speakers? Or is it more common to simply talk about -ar, -er and -ir verbs and then irregular verbs?
I am rather charmed by having two version of the verb of being, one for permanent conditions and one for characteristics which are had at the moment. It seems like all sorts of fun could be had with those distinctions. For instance, while some might say, "El coche está sucio," in my case it would be more accurate to say that, "Mi coche es sucio," as my vehicle has become permanently scruffy.
Though perhaps what seems to the beginner to be cleverness would just come across as grammatical incompetence.