I chose to study abroad in Spain knowing my limited abilities in Spanish. I did not study it in high school either, so I had zero exposure to the language prior to coming to Madrid. A few weeks before the study abroad, I began learning some basic phrases on Duolingo so that I could get around at a restaurant or a grocery store. However, there is nothing like learning a language when you are surrounded by people that speak it everyday. Duolingo is a useful platform to learn basic words, but when it comes to framing sentences with verbs, they use a very academic approach and native Spanish speakers don’t speak that formally. So relying on Duolingo to learn Spanish does not help you sound natural while speaking Spanish.
Right from my very first day in Madrid, I was forced to use Spanish to communicate in the Taxi from the airport to my apartment, and while buying a simcard. Initially it was very dificult to understand and I would struggle for even basic words like “ok” or “sorry”, and I heavily relied on google translate to communicate. Every time I google a word to use in a converstation with a local, I always remember it and it registers into my mental dictionary and this is how I slowly builds my language skills. After a week in Madrid, I was able to get an idea of the types of conversations I have on a day-to-day basis. For instance, at the cashier in grocery stores, at the fruit market, at restraunts while ordering food etc. So I learnt particular vocabulary online and used them in my daily conversations.
As a part of my course, I also took a Spanish Culture through Films class which is my favorite class that I have taken this term. In this class, we learn a lot about Spain’s political and cultural history though watching movies in class in Spanish. These Spanish movies have also been a great way to pick up simple phrases and vocabulary. So far in class, we have watched “La Lengua de las Mariposas”, “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Marshland” and I thoroughly enjoyed watching all the films since I was able to learn more about Spain in the 19th century. Apart from watching films in class, I watched the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Musical in Spanish and it was an amazing experience! The atmosphere was so lively and it was my first Spanish musical ever. I also picked up a lot Spanish phrases and words during the musical and I was able to understand the dialogues. This constant exposure to the language makes it very easy and fun to pick up Spanish faster than I would if I were to learn from Duolingo or other platforms.
From all my classes, I was able to make friends from Spanish speaking countries like Chile, Argentina, Mexico and even native Spaniards. I definitely learnt most of my Spanish from them as they would help me in restraunts or when we go out. We also have mini conversations in Spanish and this helps me sound more natural while talking Spanish. I also actively try to listen to strangers conversations in public or in the metro and I have picked up many phrases that way, like “que frio!”, “Si, claro”, “entiendo”, “no pasa nada”, “enserio?” and many more. Another way I like to learn Spanish is through reading kids story books in Spanish. While walking around the city, I had come across a book fair that sold children’s books and so I had to buy one!
Learning Spanish in Spain has been an interesting journey and it is always an advantage to be multilingual. I hope to continue learning Spanish even after my study abroad .
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