Natalie’s Journal on Learning Spanish

Hola Clase!

A couple of days ago, I decided to go to the medical clinic after class. I was feeling miserable! This was the first time I had been to a doctor’s office in Barcelona, and I was a little scared. The doctor did not speak English and so I had to explain how I was feeling in Spanish. He said that my throat was irritated, and he wrote me a prescription for some medicine.  I told the doctor thank you, and then I left.  On my way to the elevator, I could hear someone yelling my name.  I turned around to see a man holding my purse in his hands yelling to get my attention.  I told him, “Gracias, eres un verdadero caballo.”  All of a sudden he started laughing hysterically.  I didn’t understand why he would be laughing about me losing my purse, and I was starting to get a little angry.  Then I realized what was so funny.

He explained that I had said, “Thank you, you are a true horse.” What I meant to say was “Gracias eres un verdadero caballero.” Caballero is gentleman and caballo is horse.  I could feel myself blushing.  I know the difference between these two words, and although this is a common Spanish mistake it was still quite funny.  The man told me not worry about the mistake.  He told me that my Spanish is pretty good, and we all make mistakes.  This made me feel much better, and then I was on my way home before I made any more funny Spanish mistakes.  Have you ever been really embarrassed about something?  Did someone give you advice or say something to make you feel better about the situation?

I just looked down at my calendar, and I can’t believe that I’ve been here for a month already.  Although time has passed rather quickly, there are some things that have become very familiar. I have gotten used to listening to the radio in Catalan or Spanish, and I have attempted to sing along to some of the songs.  It is a little frustrating, because I really like the music, but I do not know all of the lyrics.  Most of the time the singer is speaking too fast, so I just hum along and enjoy the music.  It has also been a great tool for practicing my Spanish, because I can look up the lyrics on the Internet to learn the lyrics and message of the song.  Gala and I also listen to music together.  We both love listening to Michael Jackson, Shakira, Elvis Crespo, the Beatles and more.  She helps me with some of Spanish lyrics, and I help her understand some songs together.  We also love watching the Disney Channel show, Shake it Up, because it has lots of dancing and music.

After being here for almost four weeks, I can finally get back home without anyone’s help.  While this may seem like a small accomplishment, it was very hard to remember where I lived when I had first arrived here.  Can you imagine being lost in a city full of millions of people who don’t really speak English?  The first two weeks when I was here, I would always have to ask someone for directions.  I was a little nervous that people would laugh at me or ignore me.  This was not the case.  Many people gave me advice and directions.   Not only did I get home safely each time, but also this has made me a lot more confident and comfortable with speaking Spanish.

Through my struggles with Spanish, I have started to think about what it may feel like to be a new immigrant in the United States.  Can you imagine what it would feel like to arrive in America and not know the difference between a men’s and women’s restroom, not understand any street names and not be able to have a conversation with someone? What about if you had to go to the doctor and explain what was wrong with you, or worse, perhaps your little baby?! That could be very frightening. It is really hard to move away from your home to a new place where you don’t know anything or anyone.  When we meet someone who doesn’t know English, it is easy for use to make fun of him or her and laugh.  If we understand what is feels like to be in their shoes, then we will understand how difficult it is to move to a completely different country.

It is very important to be patient.  When we first learned to tie our shoes or ride a bike it took time right?  This is the same kind of idea.  It takes some time before people can speak in English and communicate.  If we make an effort to provide suggestions or give them advice, it helps the person feel more confident.  If someone feels more confident, then they will be more willing to talk to us in English.  We are all apart of a larger community, and if someone is struggling we can all pitch in to do what we can to help.

It think that it is a great idea to learn a different language.  There are many different languages around the world, and they help to keep us all united and connected.  By learning another language, you can talk about so many things and make many new friends.  We can learn about their traditions, culture, religion, food and more.  You can practice the new language with your friends, teachers, family and other students learning the language.  You can also go to the library, and you will find many different books that help teach you a new language.  You will be able to travel and meet people all over the world.  Do you want to learn another language?  What languages interest you the most?

Yesterday in my Spanish class, we taught our professor the significance of #YOLO, “You Only Live Once.” It means that you should be grateful for the experiences and opportunities that you have been granted. Most importantly you should live in the moment.  Now Gala goes around saying #Yolo.  This phrase has definitely shaped how I think about the rest of my experience here in Barcelona.  I could get mad every time I make a pronunciation mistake or forget a work in Spanish, but that won’t help with anything.  It is okay to make errors, but it is important to figure out the right answer, continue to be confident and ask for help.  There are so many people supporting me including my host family, friends, and my language practice partner.  From now on, I am going to continue practicing my Spanish, so I can learn more and more each day.

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