April Fools! [Haha…hilarious]
I thought that since I haven’t written in a while, that I use April Fool’s as a segway for an update. Obviously, I am not fluent yet. I have learned a lot about the language, culture, and people. I believe, however, that there is a grand misconception about truly obtaining a foreign language. Even though I can say with confidence that I have somewhat of a high capacity for the language, I believe my experience here has given me a new perspective on fluency, as well as many other life-lessons. Regarding fluency, I don’t think I will be able to truly call myself fluent until I can interact with the language on a daily basis, in all forms with confidence and skills to negotiate my way through conversation, readings, etc. Unless I have a frequent interaction with the language, it won’t happen. The misconception that fluency means knowing everything is daunting. Once I came here, I realized what I knew and what I didn’t. As anything else with regards to learning, it is a process. I don’t think I will ever come to the day where I will say, “Okay, that’s it. I know everything I need to know about the spanish language…” and I hope I never do. I love spanish more than ever, and I hope someday to add more languages into my arsenal. Every day, I learn something new, even when it seems as minuscule as vocabulary, my capacity for the language is growing, and I believe, that the learning will never really stop.
When encountering a language, it is an interaction beyond semantics, grammar, vocabulary, it’s a summation of a culture, of a lifestyle, of a community and how they are able to communicate. Leaning a foreign language does not only give you numerous cognitive benefits, but the opportunity to interact with a group of people that wasn’t before possible. Being here has been difficult, an experience that I don’t think I could have ever started to prepare for. Some people you encounter will tell you that it is nearly impossible to communicate and on the other hand of the spectrum, that after one month, you should be fluent. Let’s discard the extremes, shall we? Because I know from experience that neither is accurate. Everyday is a new struggle, both at the same time, an opportunity to improve. Some days are better than others. Some people are exposed to it more because of their living environment, maybe because of a host family. Either way, the weight of it comes down to you, whether you want it or not. If so, you’ll push harder. When people hear you struggling and talk to you in English, you’ll be assertive and keep talking in Spanish. When you don’t know a word, you will ask or figure another way to say it. When you are done 3 hours of class all in Spanish, at the end of the day, you won’t stop listening, reading, writing, or speaking (if all, quite impressive). I can’t say that I have done this consistently, but it gets easier. And I am proud of my struggle, of at least, my efforts if I fail.
Most of the people I encounter here are quite encouraging. You might hear that people will refuse to speak to you, that Spaniards are rude. I full-heartedly disagree. Sometimes, it is true that people will hear you Spanish and switch automatically to English, but with efforts to keep speaking even if struggling, you’ll find that people are helpful, encouraging, and happy that you are taking the time to learn their language, immerse yourself in their culture. I think the hardest part is keeping yourself accountable. Small goals help, but the biggest one is just try each day. Just keep trying [cue ‘Just keep swimming…’ in my head].
Some updates now. I have not traveled as much as I would have expected by now, but reality hits you when you realize you’re studying abroad. Studying. Abroad. I feel like for some reason, everyone forgot to prepare me for the actual academic part. How strange. While I have traveled within Madrid, Salamanca, Avila, and almost Granada (funny story….), I plan to take Semana Santa to my advantage. Also, I have some adventures coming up this week! I am heading to Morocco (Marrakesh), Africa! The weather should be beautiful…and by the end of the trip, other than our other explorations and activities, I will have rode camels, camped in the desert underneath the stars. Just the idea of the two things blows my mind every time. Not to mention, adding a different country and continent on my list! For Semana Santa, Italy and Barcelona are in my sights (let’s see what actually happens…), and Lisbon, Portugal the next weekend. Unfortunately, no ESN Ibiza trip for me…I guess that means other trips, much cheaper for me. Other than that, still dying to go to Granada, Prague, France. I should also be going to Holland to visit my lovely roommates (shout out to Anna and Chiara!).
When I come home, I am looking for opportunities in New Orleans to keep learning and interacting with Spanish as often as possible. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know (whether it is a paid-position, tutoring, Spanish book club. seriously, anything.)
Ah. Ahora, es una de la manana [translation: way too late for my 9 am class tomorrow]. Hasta luego mis lectores!