Relocation,  Spain

Fluency in Spanish: The journey of a wannabe Spanish speaker

I had an amazing epiphany this morning: Spanish is getting easier!

It seems so insignificant and yet… for someone who is trying to learn a new language the road to fluency can be tough.

My first steps towards learning Spanish started in December 2017. I had been dating my then Mexican boyfriend for a few months and we were planning my trip to Monterrey a little while later to visit him and the family.

There was only one problem. His parents spoke no English and my Spanish consisted of little more than “hola”, “gracias” and “sombrero!”. Ay dios mio!

Since I’m a pretty social person and I’m not one for awkward silences, I figured a little Spanish might go a long way. Especially, in helping build a relationship with my boyfriend and his family. After all, what better way to understand someone than to learn about their culture and language, right?

So, I signed up for an evening course in Prague and embarked on a journey that (little did I know) would land me in Spain less than 12 months later.

 

Learning Spanish basics: ¿Hola, cómo te llamas?

My first course in Spanish was a semi-private 3-month course of 6 hours/week. I had discovered the Spanish language Institute in Prague, which had a 5 star rating and so I thought I’d give it a try.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have any classes that suited me at the time as they only had options for 3 hours or 20 hours per week and the class times didn’t fit with my schedule.

Having learned Korean in the past, I knew the most effective part-time courses were likely to be around 6-9 hours/week. That being the case, I decided to ring up the school. It wouldn’t hurt to ask if they would consider opening a new semi-intensive class, right?

Good fortune was on my side as the owner Gonzalo was willing and able to set up a new class of 6 hours. Within a weeks we agreed to have 2 intensive sessions of 3 hours/week. The best part – he already had other students interested in joining. Perfect!

2 weeks later, we started classes using the Aula Internacional Series by Difusión. I have to say I loved it! The book was colourful, interactive and contained language, ideas and cultural descriptions from both Spain and Latin-America. Being a big fan of mezclas (mixtures) of most types, this seemed perfect to me.

Only being 2 students in the class also meant that both Lenka and I had lots of opportunities to develop our language skills from the start. (It helped that Gonzalo himself was very entertaining too!)

That’s how, within a little less than 3 months, we went from absolute beginners to the end of A2 level. I then flew to Mexico and I must say I was pretty impressed with how much I could understand.

It didn’t hurt that I was getting plenty of positive encouragement from both my boyfriend and his family to keep going with my efforts too. It was great to be able to have some dialogue and start to get to know them better. What an experience!

 

The big dip and moving to Spain

Following some pretty drastic life changes last year, my Spanish fell somewhat to the wayside for a little while.

After the departure of my Spanish class partner after 3 months, I ended up joining one of the regular classes of 3 hours/week. As expected, this seriously impacted the speed at which I learnt Spanish.

After the breakup with my boyfriend soon thereafter, my motivation to learn Spanish fell significantly too. After all, if I didn’t have to communicate in Spanish anymore, was there really any point in learning it further? I should just leave and forget about it now, right?

Wrong.

You see, I’m the kind of person who likes to find a meaning in most everything that happens in my life. My now ex-boyfriend and his family definitely could no longer be my motivation for learning Spanish, that much was clear.

However, what if their temporary presence in my life was meant to be a catalyst? What if Spanish was to play a greater role in my life moving forward? What if my dedication and effort so far was not meant to go to waste?

After all, I had somehow managed to successfully avoid learning Spanish for around 30 years of my life prior to meeting them. Despite it being the second most widely spoken language in the world. Yet here I was in  Prague, learning Spanish and really enjoying and succeeding at it too! I just couldn’t imagine that was a coincidence.

It’s with thoughts like these in mind that I confronted more shifts in my life a few months later. I faced a decision on whether to stay or leave my current job. I was also considering whether to stay or leave my home of 3 years, Prague.

After one very insightful conversation with my manager, however, I decided to take a plunge. I was going to quit my job and move to Spain!

 

Moving beyond the Spanish basics: ¡Sigueme!

Soon after arriving in Spain I re-started my Spanish studies at Camino Barcelona. I secured a Black Friday deal with 25% off, which totally sealed the deal for me.

To my delight, the school turned out to be the perfect fit too. You had new students arriving every Monday. This meant flexibility for taking breaks when needed, which was important to me.

Homework was assigned daily too, but in manageable chunks allowing me to prioritise side projects as needed. Further, level tests were held every 6-10 weeks as you worked your way up the levels. This ultimately ensured a minimum standard, but kept stress levels manageable when pursuing other priorities.

It’s after 3 months of classes at Camino Barcelona that I’ve now landed here. Googling the phrase “Lo que quieres (no) existe” // “That which you want (doesn’t) exist”. Struggling with the ‘lo que’ structure in Spanish, which is so straight forward and yet not.

Opening up the first article related to the topic, reading through it and understanding pretty much every word, I just realized something. A new world is opening up. A new language is creating its pathways through my brain. I will inevitably end up seeing the world differently now. These new words will help shape a myriad of fresh visions, understandings and ideas now.

It’s been quite a journey. I have a feeling it’s far from over too. However, with that said, I would like to send my highest vibrations to all your readers learning something new out there.

The beginning is rarely easy. Progress can often seem illusive. Yet if you keep moving forward, practicing, and growing. One day you will see. Things will get easier and you’ll be able to say. “That’s it. I made it – and all the effort was worth it!”

 

 

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