I’ve never been great at learning languages. I can’t speak or understand a word of my ethnic language of Chinese. I studied French at high school for a year, (a very long time ago), and again one Summer when I was living and studying at university in the United States, (again, a very long time ago). I know enough basic French to at least order food and ask for directions, and I can speak basic conversational Dutch.
But of all the languages I’ve never wanted to learn, it’s Spanish. Not even the remote chance of meeting Penelope Cruz would motivate me to learn Spanish. Why? Because it makes no sense to me whatsoever. Spanish words and pronunciations have no resemblance to English. How on earth am I going to remember these words, let alone pronounce them?! But with a pending two month stint in South America starting in four weeks, I wanted some basic knowledge of the main language.
I remember my first class, ten weeks ago. It was the most stressed I’ve felt in a long time. As the teacher gave us a worksheet to test our basic knowledge, I stared at the words that may as well have been written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. It didn’t help me feel any better that the girls at my table seem to recognise the words and understood what to do. I left my first class like my head was about to implode from information overload.
Ten weeks on and I’m proud to say I now know more than I did when i first started. And although I’m not convinced I know enough to get me by as a tourist for two months, the most important thing I have gained is confidence to at least communicate on a basic level.
Afterall, one of the joys of travelling is to not only push yourself past your comfort zone, but to fully immerse yourself in the culture of the country. And there’s no better way to do that then learn the language! Como te llamas?