As my month in Spain comes to a close, I have a lot to think about. However, I can only think in Spanish half the time! The program I’m participating in is a Spanish language program, and our director requires that we will ONLY speak Spanish 24/7. It’s pretty tough, but I can absolutely see the results. It’s almost as if our director (the one and only Jose Cano, pictured below) knows what he’s doing!
Speaking and listening to another language creates habit of translating, and then I find myself translating the songs I’m singing, and even my thoughts. It’s definitely helpful to speak Spanish with my fellow students, but the real surprise is speaking with locals. There are some amazing women that work at the university in the cafeteria, on the janitorial staff, and in the front office. We all interact with them daily, and it is such a confidence boost to be able to chat with them about their families and jobs and be able to fully understand them. Now don’t get me wrong, I am still learning, and Spaniards speak a million miles a minute, but the language barrier is breaking down!
So while being immersed in another language, these are the things I’ve learned:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask people to slow down! People appreciate that you are learning their language, and understand that you are still LEARNING. No one has ever seemed disappointed to know I care enough about what they’re saying to ask them to clarify it!
2. SPEAK! This was the biggest thing for me. It’s my second language, so obviously it doesn’t come as fast as I would like. When I first got here, I would get embarrassed and frustrated that I spoke so slowly I would just switch back to English. But as I got over that, and practiced more and more, I got better and faster! Speaking is the only way to improve your speaking.
3. Have an escape. Any one learning another language knows it takes a lot of brain power to translate constantly in your head. It can get kind of exhausting. So make sure you have a way to de-stress and let your brain take a break. For me, it’s Netflix. Watching a few episodes of an American tv show lets me listen without thinking so I don’t get burnt out or frustrated. Plus, who doesn’t love Netflix.
I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had here to improve my Spanish and have a real adventure! (Below is one of my favorite pictures of the cathedral in Salamanca.)