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Learning another language is tough. I mean, a lot tougher than you might think. Heading to the Spanish-speaking, Central American country of Costa Rica, I thought to myself, “This will be a GREAT opportunity to practice my Spanish that I learned in high school and college!” Which it was. We both downloaded the Latin America version of Rosetta Stone before we moved and worked on it a little before moving. Peter only took a little French in college, so Spanish was a whole new language for him. I definitely think he was nervous that he would be totally lost and confused for the whole year when it came to communicating with others. However, Peter is a super-smarty guy and he picked it up relatively quickly, and now we are both on a pretty similar level of fluency (or lack there of…lol).
Peter is better at recalling vocabulary and forming sentences in a given situation while I am better at hearing and understanding Spanish, but have a hard time recalling the word I need to form a proper sentence. Or any sentence for that matter. I’m bad. Anyway, the two of us combined are a powerful, almost fluent in basic Spanish, machine! Separate, we can be pretty hopeless at times
Most people have asked me, or assumed, that because we spent a year being surrounded by people speaking Spanish that we would have picked it up and be fluent by now. I would have asked me the same question or assumed the same if I were them. I mean, it’s been YEAR! Haven’t we learned anything?!
The short answer is, yes.
The not-so-short answer is that I had a reality check. I thought that I had this really great Spanish base to work off of once we arrived to CR. I was excited to practice the Spanish I already knew, and show off a little in front of Peter and impress him with my mad Spanish-speaking skills. I was wrong. I knew a few lines, like: Hola. Como esta? Muy bien, y tu? Como se llama? (which I actually said “Como te llama?” at first, until I was corrected, lol), Buenos dias. and, of course, Como se dice? which is usually the most important phrase to know if you are trying to learn the Spanish language. These were most of the main phrases I was familiar with, in addition to quite a bit of vocabulary. I was so confident! That is, until I get there and heard someone talk to me in Spanish and I. was. LOST.
People just spoke so fast, and I found myself getting frustrated because I recognized a lot of the words, but I couldn’t remember what the translation was. It was quite heartbreaking to realize I was not as far along as I thought…a bit of a rude awakening, actually.
Over the next few months Peter and I practiced Rosetta Stone as much as possible, and over time found improvement. We could get through simple and short interactions with locals. Our favorite was when a taxi driver (or any local) would realize that we spoke a little Spanish and continue to speak with us only in Spanish, but very clearly and slowly. We actually could have a decent, light conversation with someone by the end if they spoke like that. I’m sure we still messed up a few things here and there in our sentence forming and tenses and what not, but they got the just of what we were saying. That can be a problem too, though, because if you are saying something small wrong, and the person gets what you are saying and doesn’t correct you, then you just continue to say things wrong.
It was great having billboards and things to read as well on the way to school every day. I would see how much of it I could translate and watch my vocabulary expand. Also, eavesdropping on other people’s conversations on the bus was a fun way to test what I could and couldn’t understand 🙂
All in all, I miss being surrounded by Spanish. It really gets my mind in motion because I am constantly trying to recall words and phrases I recognize, or make note of the parts I don’t recognize to look up for later.
We were not surrounded by Spanish the whole time. Peter worked from home, so he didn’t interact as much with others and relied more on Rosetta Stone to teach him, and he would practice when we went out. I was out and about most days, so I picked up more Spanish from my surroundings and the culture. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why I was better at understanding Spanish, and Peter was better at forming actual sentences, because I was around it more daily!
I think if we were living individually (where we didn’t have someone to speak English with) and lived with a Spanish-speaking only family, then we would be fluent by now. We picked up so much while there and not having very much Spanish interaction on a daily basis.
This is a side note, but I actually think I learned the most Spanish from the Kindergarten kids I taught. I was more on their level of Spanish.
Being home now, I know we both still try and translate other people’s Spanish conversation if we hear it. Sometimes it’s successful, and sometimes it’s not. I’ll admit, I want to continue with my Rosetta Stone learning, but I haven’t been as on top of it as I should be. Whoops!
I love that Peter and I have had the joy of learning another language together. We learned about team work in stressful situations. That’s pretty important in a relationship. It’s also just something we have formed a bond over. We still love to practice small sentences here and there now that we’re home, and I love that. It’s like our own love language 🙂
I also feel more self-confident. I know I still have a ways to go in learning Spanish fluently, but I also feel like I know so much more than I use to! It’s a great feeling.
~Thanks for reading~