Bridging the Gap

To say that learning a foreign language is a “process” is no joke.  But what is the process?  Are there certain steps every language learner must take before mastering said language?  Is the process the same for everyone?  In a nutshell….no.

With all the time I’ve spent traveling through Spain and Europe, there is one thing that seems to slap me in the face the hardest.  It’s not the cultural differences, not the people, not the food, customs, or way of life….it’s the languages.  And not the difference in languages, it’s the knowledge and understanding of languages.  Here I am, a 22 year old who has been studying Spanish off and on for almost 10 years.  10 YEARS! Sounds like a long time, right?  Tell me about it…

I have met so many people at through the language academy where I take my Spanish classes.  Mostly, they are from all over Europe, but many are from France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland.  What we have in common is that we are all learning Spanish.  What we don’t have in common is that for us Americans, Spanish is the second language we are trying to learn, while for the rest of the Europeans it is the 3rd or 4th, or 5th!  Seriously I met a guy the other day who spoke at least 5 different languages, maybe more, and one of those languages was CHINESE.  His English was perfect so when I asked how he learned it, I naturally assumed that he had spent some time in either England or the States. Want to know his response?  Watching movies.  Want to know how old he is?  19.  Want to know how this made me feel?  Completely and utterly incompetent.

So what I am going to do about it, you ask?  Well, my friends, lots of things.  First of all, I’m not coming home until I’m fluent.  But, how am I going to get fluent when my “formal training” ends in 2 weeks and my JOB in Spain is to speak English?  Haha, wow, the longer I write this, the funnier it gets.  Anyway, here’s my list so far:

1. Intercambios

Intercambios are amazing things.  Literally, it is a language exchange where you meet up with someone who (in my case) speaks Spanish fluently but is trying to improve their English.  For 30 minutes you speak in Spanish, and for 30 minutes you speak in English.  Not only is it a great way to meet people, but also to practice your language skills in a judgment and stress free zone.  I have participated in 2 intercambios so far in Sevilla and plan to continue this trend in Malaga.

2. Movies/TV

Hey if they worked for the other kid, they can work for me!  This, of course, is assuming that my apartment in Malaga comes equipped with a TV…unlike my current residence.

3. Living with Spaniards

This is a big one, folks.  Lesson learned from living in Madrid:  If you live with an American, YOU WILL SPEAK ENGLISH, AND ONLY ENGLISH.  I’ve made up my mind and I’m definitely living with Spaniards in Malaga.  I’m still on the hunt for an apartment which is seemingly impossible to do from Sevilla-guess I’ll be living in a hostel for a few days when I get to Malaga!

4. 20 Minutos

Ohh how I love 20 Minutos.  It’s a free newspaper that I pick up every day on my way to school.  Without TV it’s my only way to stay connected to what’s going on in Sevilla, Spain, and occasionally, the world.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, I think I have my bases covered- speaking, reading, and listening skills-check, check and check!

Here’s some shots from our trip to the beach last weekend.  We went to Matalascañas in the province of Huelva- a little more than an hour away from Sevilla.  Next weekend I’m headed to Lagos, Portugal!

How many languages do you speak or which language(s) would you most like to learn? What’s the hardest part?

If I ever master Spanish, I’d love to learn French next- it’s so beautiful!  The hardest part of learning a language for me is forcing myself to practice on my own.  In reality there are so many things I could have been doing to help myself these last ten years!

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