After studying Spanish for about 8 years I am finally in Spain speaking Spanish in my daily life, picking up new vocabulary and practising what I had already learnt. No oral exam or class practice could be compared to the practice of speaking a language out of necessity. Speaking with mistakes doesn’t cause the same embarrassment it would in a classroom; you try your best and feel pride in being understood anyway.
As expected, there are moments of difficulty and self-doubt in my ability to speak or explain what it is that I want to say. Any low feelings about not being fluent however disappear on the few occasions where I manage to have a flowing conversation, understanding what someone is saying without needing an extra few minutes to process or translate the words in my head. As these flowing conversations slowly become more frequent it is easy to understand why living abroad to practise a language is so valuable. I have been in Catalonia for almost a month now and although it’s been a slow process, the fact that my language skills can only get better is reassuring.
I thought it may take longer to improve my Castilian Spanish while living in a town where everyone speaks Catalan, which is the native language of many people in Catalonia and is a mix of Castilian Spanish, French, and Latin. Catalan people are also fluent in Castilian Spanish, and luckily to my surprise I found English to be greatly valued by people here. A few of the people I have met have studied English in the past or are currently studying it and they are excited about practising their speaking and learning new vocabulary from our conversations.
With people studying English and other languages there is a mutual understanding of the difficulties involved, and Spanish people are more than happy to help explain things or slow down their speaking so that I can understand. In my quest to improve my Spanish I have also never appreciated TV more. Spanish on TV sounds so familiar when my housemates are speaking Catalan at lightning speed and puts my listening skills to work. Both speaking in English every now and again and watching TV shows I recognise in Spanish have made the process of living abroad surrounded by a different culture and language that much easier.
How often do you practise your English outside the classroom?