Sooo as a native speaker of English and a bit of knowledge in Spanish, many wondered how in the world I would do while I was in a Spanish speaking country. I had no answer..because I didn’t know. That was the joy of it all for me, just diving in there and going for it!
I’ve been in Costa Rica for 2 months and a week and so far I have managed to get through this long. There are a few tips I will leave you with so that you know surviving another language is possible!
Know the basics
I took Spanish for 2 semesters in high school and 2 semesters in college…you would think that would do the trick but for some reason it wasn’t sticking with me. Knowing the basics is very important because it will take you a loonnngggggggg way! Trust me, I don’t know why..just do it! So when I say the basics I mean know greetings, simple phrases, and simple conjugations. When I first got to San Jose, this was the only thing I relied on. I knew different words and phrases and I was able to start there. Use all that you learned within your Spanish classes because this will definitely be a good start for you. My host family has been very helpful. If you try to speak the language, people are definitely more likely to help you out.
It’s okay to sound horrible!
I’ve been learning that it is okay that I may sound like I just learned the language a day ago. First, it makes them crack up and secondly, if you listen to yourself speak, you’ll be dying on the floor laughing yourself. The people here in San Jose have been great. I can sound like a complete idiot but they are willing to try to help you figure out what you’re trying to say. I have had a ball so far with learning the language. I’ve had moments where I made absolutely no sense and moments where I actually got a decent sentence out of my mouth. (Those are the moments to celebrate). Once you are in a location for at least a month you get more comfortable with listening to dialogue and recognizing key words that you may know from previous classes. Make yourself uncomfortable and get out there and just do your thing. Locals are more willing to help when they see you are trying.
Listen to understand, not to respond
When you’re learning a language it’s important to make sure that you have your listening ears on because it will help you to understand the language better. The Spanish language isn’t as direct as English. They have similar words and some key phrases, but the way that you speak the language differs. I have been able to comprehend and understand so much by just listening to the make up of a conversation and it has helped me to even speak back. By listening, the language will be so much easier to learn! Listen for words, conjugations, the sounds, and similarities. By doing this, it will be easier to remember what you have learned in class and you can use these tools to get you through.
Have fun while you’re learning a language. It will definitely make it worth while. If you want, you can create hypothetical situations that you can start in English and then translate it into the language you are learning. I think this is a good way to reinforce things that you already know in the language. One important note, it is good to use your resources. Find a friend or language group that you can speak with face to face so that you can practice and learn from a local. I love speaking with locals with the little bit of Spanish I know, because they correct me and help me out when I get stuck. Find a few friends in the country you are in and they are definitely willing to help because they enjoy meeting new people. But overall, don’t make this a chore, make it a hobby!