Spanish and Snapshots

March Hare here.  As a Spanish student, it was inevitable that I would encounter again the dreaded principle of preterite versus imperfect.  Of course it wouldn’t go away, but I had hoped that it might stay out of Spanish for a couple more chapters before making its debut this year.  Of course, things don’t happen the way they play out in my head.

I also started on writing a descriptive essay last week.  I vacillated between writing about a piano piece or my family, but in the end, my relatives won and piano was set aside for another day.  However, I ran into trouble making the switch from a narrative essay, which we spent our last few weeks writing and revising, to a descriptive essay.  Some kids had too many abstract ideas and not enough concrete details.  I, on the other hand, upon hearing it read to me during the first revision,  I realized that I wrote another narrative essay, which I’m surprisingly okay with now.  Immediately after the revision, I was pretty embarrassed.  Perhaps writing about my family wasn’t such a good idea, I thought.  Maybe I should have gone with writing about something else instead.  However, I’m glad I waited to decide because I grew fonder of my essay throughout the week and did not scrap the entire essay.  I think this isn’t such a bad situation: now, I can observe how a narrative turns into a descriptive essay kind of like watching a green leaf turn yellow or red.  I could take for granted that some trees turn yellow and red in the fall, but watching one specific leaf turn yellow or red would be more convincing.  Seeing the phenomenon would tell me that whatever I observed was in fact possible and not just a myth created to mess around with Southern Californians because they live in perpetual summer.

Overall, the essay wasn’t bad, but it had too much story in it, too much beginning-middle-end.  I wasn’t supposed to be taking a panorama shot of my family, but rather snapshots of my time with them.  These shots didn’t need to be in order of what happened; no one keeps all burst shots or even worse, puts all of them in an album.  But the shots still need something linking them together: no one puts the baby pictures with the trip to Maui.

Now what does a description essay have to do with my struggles in Spanish?  Well, last year, when I learned the concept of preterite versus imperfect, I remember that my teacher described a story made solely of imperfect would “sets the scene, but nothing happens”.  I feel like this view towards the imperfect is what a descriptive essay should do.  Although in English, we don’t have a preterite and imperfect, I think a purely imperfect story is a fine way to define a descriptive essay.  It’s a bit bewildering when school subjects intermingle, don’t you think?


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