Sunday, January 29, 2012

Practica Makes Perfecto

Practice may make perfect but some things take more practice than others. Learning a new language is something that takes a lot of time, patience, practice and immersion. I think every university student should be required to live abroad for at least four to five months, whether they are learning a new language or not.

Living opens up a new way of looking at the world and the people living in it. For four years I sat in a classroom, listening to teachers talk about history and culture. In September 2011, I began living it. In the classroom it was apparent there were some differences but more or less everything was the same with a different name. When I arrived I couldn't even find milk because it was boxed in a different way and sold off a non-refrigerated shelf. It was a lot more different than I had ever realized. I was dealing with culture shock and almost left the country after only four days.

Three months later the culture shock wore off. It just became "natural," or as natural as it could be for a foreigner. It was time to really focus on the practicing part. In October I began attending a weekly "Intercambio," or language exchange. It helped a lot and I began to be able to understand people a lot better. And then came Christmas break when I went back to the United States for two weeks. I expected to lose a lot during that time.

When I arrived back in Spain I was surprised that I still could speak and listen about as well as when I left Spain. I continued going to the language tandems. Of course, the teachers at the schools where I work are all very helpful and supportive as well. Several times the other assistant and I have talked to the bilingual coordinator about her experiences when she moved to Spain as a child. Both of us have noticed we will have a hard time coming up with words even in English sometimes.

A friend I made from the Intercambio who is from Whales and I went to Cadiz on Saturday. We generally speak Spanish together, with a few words in English if we don't know how to say something. Both of us feel awkward speaking a lot of English in the streets of Spain. On Saturday we began our journey at 6:30 in the morning. We checked in to a hostel in Sevilla at about 11 that night after missing the bus back to Huelva. During that time we spoke Spanish. Even by 3 p.m. when we met some Americans at the top of Torre Tavira I had a hard time speaking English to them. By the time we were in for the night I was pretty much thinking in Spanish.

My Spanish is far from perfect. That will require years and years of more practice. But it is definitely improving, even if I have a serious problem with prices. Nevertheless, I at least have something specific I know I need to work on. I need to go places just to ask the prices of items. Hopefully I can solve this problem soon. Yes, it is a problem. I am quite sure no one be so unreasonable as to say a soda costs 1,000 euros.

Living in Spain provides me the opportunity to experience a different culture and improve my language skills.

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