When I was first told my friends and family that I was going to study abroad in Spain, I was met with laughter because my Spanish is what many have described as awful. No, I’m not one of mildly annoying kids that fake humility, but actually excel in whatever they are talking about. My Spanish was a hot mess, exactly two degrees north of terrible.
Despite taking a couple classes in college, I never got comfortable with the language. I was afraid of two things. First being that I wanted to actually learn the language, and was slightly embarrassed that like the majority of my class, I wasn’t just taking it as a credit requirement. Second, speaking used to terrify me. I was afraid that others were constantly judging my accent or inability to conjugate properly.
I had practiced in my room and had countless conversations under false pretenses in my head…and that was my problem. Despite doing extra exercises in my book and having these make-believe conversations, I still wasn’t fluent (Who would have known?!). So, I did what any sensible person would do, I moved to Spain! There’s no better way to learn than to be forcefully shoved out of your comfort zone and that’s exactly what happened.
As soon as I stepped off the plane, people were telling me where to go and what to do ALL in Spanish. I made it through customs and immediately questioned my sanity. I just moved to a country halfway around the world and could barely speak the language! What was I thinking?
At first things were hard, but as the weeks started flying by they got a little easier. Soon I was recognizing words and phrases, and engaged in small talk with locals. No one ever laughed at me (or at least not to my face) and when I messed up someone just corrected me and moved on. Everyone I have met appreciates that I am just trying.
A lot of the other students in my program share the same goal and practice with me, but the biggest help was making friends with locals. Speaking with them can be intimidating, but you’ll never regret a conversation (even if it seems slightly awkward at the time).
One of the first conversations I had with a Spaniard was about the fact I had never been fishing. A week later our friend came and picked up a group of us and took us out fishing. Have you ever taken a fishing lesson in Spanish? If not, I would highly recommend it!
Although learning a new language is always challenging, you have nothing to lose by trying. And who knows? Maybe you’ll catch a fish or two along the way.
The world awaits…discover it.