Had you known me throughout my high school days then you would not need to be told just how much I hated learning a second language. At the time it seemed like a great idea and I even scored my first ever trip abroad to Indonesia to practice my skills. After 6 years of study however it was clear that I had not grasped Indonesian at all and my final exam proved that beyond a doubt. I’d even go as far as to say I despised learning a language and couldn’t for the life of me imagine trying again.
What’s changed for me to be considering it again? my passion for travel of course. I now see a language as a link to understanding the country I visit better and to show my respect for the people I speak to when ordering food or asking for directions. Time and time again I have felt lost by not being able to speak to someone while abroad and the tipping point came while I was in Spain recently.
Previously I’d stopped a few days in each major city and moved on before encountering much of a problem due to the high tourist route I followed. After a good 2-3 weeks of exploring Andalucia where Spanish really was the dominate language I became aware of how much I do struggle with languages. The whole time I felt awkward and rude when interacting with the people around me for not knowing enough while a visitor to their homeland.
The realisation that I needed to, no… wanted to learn was sitting in a little bar down in San Ambrosio with Abbey from achickwithbaggage.com and constantly having to use her as a translator. I could tell these people around me had amazing stories by the amount of times she would laugh and smile but I couldn’t join the conversation, I couldn’t even thank them properly for the beer that had just been bought for me by this spanish stranger.
The rest of my trip followed a similar pattern. Others would speak for me or I’d struggle through in broken english always with the thought in the back of my head that this just can’t go on. Not if I want to call the world my office and not if I wanted to be taken seriously while doing so.
Now back in London I have to follow through on what I felt in Spain. It’s easy to say yes I’ll learn a second language no problem and once you leave the country the desire slips away. I’ve made goals, I’ve told people these great stories about how I’m going to learn Spanish so I have to follow through. Which is why I’m also telling you this, it’s easier to not do something when you don’t tell anyone. Sure I can still skip out on my goal but I’ll lose face, to you and to myself so there is no going back. I will learn Spanish.
The goal at this stage is to return to that bar down in San Ambrosio at the end of the year and instead of using Abbey as a translator for my conversations with the owner, Miguel. I want to be able to understand enough of what he says to have a go at responding myself. It’s going to be a difficult as I’m living in London and working horrible hours, but I fell in love with Spain while there and I need to prove to myself that I can be more than a passing tourist.
To get me started I want to know your tips. How did you learn a second language? Was it via classes, audio guides, living abroad or was it meeting up with a friend who could teach you. Once I get started I’ll keep you all updated on my progress and hopefully by the end of the year I will have something to show for it.
Photo Credits: tunguska and el_monstrito.