I have no idea what an indirect object pronoun might be in Spanish. I probably use that grammatical construct, maybe often. But I didn’t learn Spanish by studying grammar and vocabulary and literature. I learned by speaking, the immersion method. When we Peace Corps trainees arrived at Camp David Crozier above Arecibo, Puerto Rico, in the summer of 1967, the staff spoke only Spanish to us from day one. We had language classes five hours a day, again, Spanish only. Have a question? Ask it in Spanish. Hear the answer in Spanish. Memorize dialogue a lot, just to get the feel and the flow of the language. That first morning, as we went through the cafeteria line in the mess tent, we had to ask for what we wanted in Spanish. I’d never studied the language, and had no idea how to ask for so much as an egg. A food worker took pity on me and let me point, out of sight of the instructors at least.
After about three weeks, the language just began to make sense. That doesn’t mean I was fluent. But I was speaking. Good thing, because at three weeks we were sent out alone with the name of a village, told to find a place to stay for three days, and to find our way there and back. I think we hitchhiked. I don’t remember having any money. Shaking my head at the memory — I don’t know how I got through the training. But I did.
Fast forward to now, when my niece’s high school aged son had a question about indirect object pronouns in Spanish. Matthew was about to have a Spanish test, and wondered if I could help explain indirect object pronouns. He’s been to Panama with his family and cousins, and thought of me as a resource.
The answer is no — not because I didn’t want to, or wasn’t interested, or didn’t have time. The truth is I have no idea. I only know Spanish because I know how the words and sentences are supposed to sound and fit together, not because I understand the underlying grammar.
Matthew understood, and found another way. 🙂