Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination

Running Deeper into Language


Did you take up running recently, Dawn?” I was asked recently.

“Not really,” I smiled. “It’s been 35+ years now.”

I started running when I began college and no longer played high school sports. Running was just so easy, and inexpensive, to pick up. I didn’t have to go anyplace else or be anywhere at a certain time. There were no monthly dues. All I needed was a pair of running shoes and out the door. I’ve been running ever since. I’ve run in several states, a few countries, and with a number of running strollers. I’ve run the cement sidewalks of Chihuahua, the cobbled streets of Oaxaca, through the dense green of Germany, and the humidity and heat of Costa Rica that made me feel like I was running in a sauna.

Wynn and Luke in the runner stroller.

Throughout these many years, I have never run while listening to anything except the musings of my mind and, for many years, the musings of the babies and toddlers in the strollers that I packed with books, toys, and goldfish. I loved, and continue to love, the time away from all to simply sink into whatever thoughts may come my way. Everything I have ever written has been mused, crafted, and refined while I run. Many of the emergent ideas came to me first to the rhythm of my footfall. Running has been my steady companion through good times and bad. Many a tear has been shed along the trails, along with laughter, dreams, planning, and more than a few choice words as I suddenly remembered something that I had forgotten or needed to be done. Through every season, I always ran in silence, until about a year ago…

About a year ago I started to listen to audio books in Spanish when I run. Some backstory—our family are big listeners of audio books. This began with cassette tapes of stories for the kids. We grew into hundreds of CDs of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and more stories and books than I can remember. The kids and I listened to books-on-tape (as I still call them) constantly—in the car, in our home, before bed. We all still have audio books going. Those free Audible credits are gold in our family

About a year ago, the thought came to me to start listening to my audio books in Spanish on my runs. I let that thought simmer for quite a while, but it didn’t go away. So, I started listening and have since that time fallen in love with this new rhythm.

We know that language is not learned, it is acquired through relevant and meaningful use. As I listen to the narrative, I focus on the story, as well as the pronunciation and cadence. Initially, I let myself look up three unfamiliar words in one run. To look up more would’ve made my runs take too long before the work day. So, for approximately 1 – 1.5 hours a day, I listen to gorgeous, oral Spanish. The voice of the narrator mades a difference. I’ve listened to listen to a sample first, so it’s a narrator that I like. Now, I have some real favorites.

Santa Fe sunrise run.

I have listened to books from Spain, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. Thus far, the narrators come from the country of origin, so speak with the particular rhythm and pronunciation of each country. I love this. I love sinking to the familiar sharp staccato of Mexican Spanish, hearing the crispness of Chilean Spanish, the iconic “zzzhhhh” of the “ll” in Argentina, and the “th” of the zeta and “c” of Spain. I have wondered what influence this may have on my own Spanish pronunciation. This, I do not know. What I do know is that the adventures throughout time around the the Spanish-speaking world in the past year deepened my fluency and fluidity in Spanish. I feel it.

For those of us who live in the world of languages, we know that language acquisition most effectively happens when there is a combination of natural acquisition and focused learning. The vast majority of my focus is on natural acquisition. I do season this with some specific learning when I hear something in the narrative that gives me pause, which usually revolves around the grammar rules that my high school Spanish teacher (aka Mom) says I rarely had much interest in, as long as I could communicate. I now dive into the details of the subjunctive and other grammatical puzzles that peak my interest. My Spanish teacher will be proud!

Aquí, hablo del tesoro del libro EL INFINITO EN UN JUNCO, escrito por Irene Vallejo:

This experience of sinking deeply into Spanish story for the sheer beauty of the language and narrative is one that I treasure. While running the trails of New Mexico, I have walked the streets of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War, revisited Berlin in the final days of WWII, absorbed Isabel Allende’s wisdom through a character, walked the literary streets of Barcelona at night, and so very much more.

As a learner of languages and teacher of language acquisition, this experience fills my writer’s spirit and informs my understandings of language.

This is a journey of joy, learning, and discovery.

What book shall I listen to next?

“If you can be anything in the world, be kind”
Thank you to my Auntie Ace for this shirt!


Author: Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores language, landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination.

12 thoughts on “Running Deeper into Language

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  4. So nice to catch up with and see you, Dawn! I was fascinated with with your commitment to running and to your way of stretching into a new area of the languages you love! All best, as always, Mary Jo

  5. Always nice the read your thoughts Dawn! You look fantastic, and it is great to hear about your passions.

  6. My COVID challenge was reading Amor en el tiempo de colera. At first side by side w the English version; later only using online translation of difficult phrases. I did get bogged down and lost interest in the zillions of Florentino Ariza’s tawdry affairs. The details! He f*ked the thousands and only loved one. I mean, did Garcia-Marquez have a conscience?!?

  7. Awesome. Your words are so inspiring….

  8. I so appreciate you sharing your insights with all of us. Thank you!!

  9. You’re amazing!

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