Growing up, I learnt French for some 8 years, but as if I didn’t know it already, a recent trip to France proved to me that my years had been close to in vain. Going abroad and needing to learn Spanish got me scared, I’ve never been a linguist or capable of speaking anything but English, but I’m happy to say that learning Spanish might break my pitiful streak. My previous background in French gives me a very slight leg up. If you didn’t know both languages originate from Latin, so they share similarities in conjugation and vocabulary; slight but still helpful if you’re grasping at straws like I am.
I learnt a majority of the Spanish I know from Duolingo, my 3rd language attempt so far, so I expected little of it. In fact, I was so sure that I was going to stop 2 weeks in, but I’m on my 106th day in my streak and while it’s still somewhat basic Spanish, I’ve found the vocabulary and grammar rules I’ve learnt to be helpful.
Living in Barcelona, I encounter a mix of Spanish and Catalan in my daily life, and I’m getting slightly better at telling when it’s Catalan by listening, but I can pick out when it’s Spanish by the basic verbs like ‘tener’ and ‘ser’. It helps a lot that many people can speak Spanish if they speak Catalan, and in any establishment I go to, there’s likely to be a person that speaks some level of English and is willing to even accommodate my Spanish illiteracy.
I go to fitness studios two to three times a week, and they are not English-centric. When I signed up, they informed me the language of instruction would be Spanish but they also promised me the instructors would throw in English to accommodate me(even though it would a group class). Well, to no surprise, the speaking of English is few and far between, and understandably so. I’ve learnt to infer and copy other exercisers, but an advantage is that it’s expanded my vocabulary one class at a time, and while the words are fitness-niche, they’re Spanish and that’s all that matters.
I think my biggest hinderance is my lack of confidence to speak Spanish in my day-to-day, like at the grocery store or when ordering food. I am trying to be a bit more intentional and make at least the first request in Spanish, a little ‘Peudo tener …’ to strike up the dialogue. More often than not whoever’s speaking to me can tell I’m not fluent but still helps me along, translating a word or two if I just can’t get it, and eventually switching to English if they speak it and see I’ve lost most comprehension.
I’m still miles away from fluency, precisely 181 units on Duolingo to go till completion, but I’m excited with my progress. The fact that my Spanish friends gas me up when I make the slightest progress or comprehend the absolute basics like a ‘soprendido’ here or an ‘aqui’ there, really boosts my confidence and encourages me to try even. I’m excited to see just how much better I can get before I leave Spain, but there’s little hope and big dreams.