I started learning Spanish in kindergarten. First grade through seventh grade, three years of high school and a 300-level college class that I tested into freshman year. The study abroad program I applied for included a two-week language intensive course before I started my classes at the University of Sevilla. Despite taking the past three years off, I felt prepared enough to dive headfirst into Spanish-speaking.
For my roommate and the 20 other students in this class, the intensive course served as a comprehensive review. For me, it took every ounce of my focus to catch the gist of what the teacher said. I spent every day of the course scribbling notes on verb tenses, rewriting conjugations over and over again, Google-translating words on my phone and jotting down their meanings. Page after page teemed with the ink of hasty handwriting, and by the end of the intensive language course I’d filled up an entire notebook, chock-full of chicken scratch.
I finished the two weeks with a better understanding of Spanish but, more importantly, I left with a better understanding of what I still needed to learn.
With that uniquely ill-prepared start in Spain, I’ve experienced a full spectrum of emotions.
Here are six symptoms that come with moving to a country with a foreign language:
- You find yourself listening more than talking. I’m a total chatterbox, but here I find myself dedicating more of my focus on context clues instead of concocting responses.
- You rehearse your coffee order.
- Attention is high. It might not be your favorite class, but if it’s in Spanish, you’re focused. It takes every fiber of your attention to catch the little things like the homework assignment your professor mumbles at the end of class.
- That “in one ear and out the other” thing? Nonexistent. Back at home, I can nod off to my mom’s orders, but here my host mom knows when I don’t understand (especially when I nod my head to a question like “how was your day?”).
- Feeling frustrated. Feeling motivated. I shuffle through these two feelings constantly. One minute I feel a ferocious motivation to learn and study, and the next I’m stuttering between verbs at dinner with my host mom ready to slam my face in my croquettes.
- You’re enthusiastic about the most trivial things. *Guy behind the register tells me my total* Wait, you want me to pay now? I ordered correctly?
Despite the hassle of not knowing how to express myself, I wouldn’t trade my struggles for anything. I take my ability to speak and understand for granted. How else could I have realized that?
The world awaits…discover it.