Learning Languages…

How many languages do you speak? And I don’t mean, which languages did the UK school system make you learn for a couple of hours here and there when you were in High School. I’m talking fluent or enough to get by living in another country. As a Brit, it’s pretty much always just English and if you were keen you might have enough French, German or Spanish to get by on holiday but not much else. For me I know a bit of French, but really only my English is something to shout about.

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Two weeks ago I started going to Spanish lessons for two hours a day, alongside daily games on Duolingo and a wonderful DK phrase book to help kick start my way to some sort of fluency in Spanish. Since I’m living here for at least a year, I’d be a bit of dick not to try my hardest to nail the language. I’m lucky that Miz is Spanish and fluent, so that’s made it easier to get by, but I really don’t want to have to rely on him for everyday basic tasks, that’s an unnecessary stress on both of us! So off, I go for two hours a day to a classroom to try and get my brain into Spanish mode.

My first reactions of heading to language lessons for the first time was the shame of being English and claiming fluency in only one language. It just looks a bit pathetic when you’re meeting people around the same age of you from all around the world who have perfect English but also speak at least one other language fluently. There’s a Finnish girl in the class who speaks four languages, a Polish girl who speaks three and is learning Russian and Spanish and an older Dutch lady who speaks about four. All of a sudden you feel like the dunce in the class, the moron and the stereotypical apologetic Brit who’s just going to expect everyone to speak English. I hate that feeling.

I feel like England and America haven’t put the effort in to educate their children in foreign languages the same as other countries have. The power from our countries have made it so we don’t have to, which is both a perk and a curse. It seems every country in the world makes a good effort to teach fluent English from a very early age, in Finland they start learning English from age 10, as soon as they’ve finished learning how to speak Finnish in effect. I feel like I’m at such a disadvantage being English and having only 2-3 years of a bit of French and a bit of German. However, luckily for me I was good at French so did GCSE and used it when I did ballet and fencing as a lot of the terms in those activities come from French. Since starting to learn Spanish a lot of that French knowledge has come back to me and it’s both amazing and slightly distracting, I have no idea how anyone copes with more than one language in their brains at a time, but enough do it for me to be able to give it a bloody good go!

Maybe I should have put in my effort to learn a foreign language in my personal time back in England? Well, it’s a bit tricky when every bit of your earnings goes on boring bills and the monotonous lifestyle of shitty weather and long working hours that just saps your energy, it does make it a bit of a challenge to get anything beyond normal life done. Classes here for two hours a day work out about £45 per week, which is super amazing! This includes two books and a programme of extra activities and socials that are set up by the school too, so you’re really getting value for money and it’s accessible to so many different types of people.

First off, I haven’t been to a class or had to traditionally learn anything new since I was a Uni and even then it was mainly going on the internet or reading a book that actually gave us the knowledge, plus my degree is Cinema, Photography and Television….so, yea maybe not a real degree. So it’s very strange to be back in a classroom setting, just how you remember from High School and having to really concentrate to take in A LOT of new information. I’m learning stuff that is difficult in English let alone in a foreign language, plus in a bid to make us learn quicker the lesson is entirely in Spanish except for a few words of English here or there when we’re really confused. I never know whether to cringe, laugh or cry at the awkwardness of a grown woman trying to act out the meanings of the words “pescar”, “bocadillo” or “bailar”. Yesterday, we had to watch a Mr. Bean sketch so we could learn how to explain what he was doing in Spanish. We even have homework.

Anyway, I’m coming to the end of the third week of class today and so far I know useful phrases like “the cat eats cheese” and “the fireman drives a car” and then the usual stuff like “how are you?” and “how old are you?” and I’m just about re-grasping the concept of genders for verbs (very similar to in French so not a completely alien concept to me) and all that stuff that I thought I didn’t have to think about after French GCSE. Alas, I continue to have the fear of speaking. I can happily write and read and can just about get the gist of a conversation spoken, but am terrified of speaking Spanish out loud, which is a massive problem. I think it’s partly because I’m not in situations where I’m thrown into it or because we keep meeting people who speak better English than Spanish, so that’s annoying. Going to make a real effort to speak more in the everyday scenarios and build it from there and practise more with Miz, which so far proves that I can do it, I just need to get over the fear.

Anyone got any genius language learning tips? How many languages do you speak? Do you know of any cats that eat cheese? I’ll keep you updated, also I I think I spent more time looking for relevant GIFs than writing this blog. Adios!

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3 thoughts on “Learning Languages…

  1. I did French and Spanish at GCSE and carried on Spanish to A Level but I used to go to Spain every year for our holidays so had a little bit of knowledge from that. Honestly though, it’s SO hard! So try not to get too down about it, sometimes it all just clicks and once you understand bits & pieces it becomes a bit clearer. I got an A at GCSE and then a C at A Level and that was after re-taking the first year exam so it really is so, so hard to understand another language. Especially seeing as you’re in Barcelona too & spain has so many different varieties of the language! You’re doing the best thing by going to classes & emersing yourself in the country 🙂

    1. Yea, we didn’t really think about the fact that Barcelona ALSO have Catalan language which is entirely another language, so that’s obviously added to the confusion. It’s awesome to see that they’ve maintained this language so well in so many aspects of day to day life though, it’s very cool!

  2. Its never too late to learn something new! So your in something I would call “spanish immersion”; there is at least one person at home who is fluent, plus all your classes are in Spanish. I didn’t know “the cat eats cheese” was a phrase one had to know …..lol! Where I’m from, the country is officially bilingual and you can’t get ahead career-wise in certain fields if you aren’t. All packaging in Canada is English/French. Government services at all levels are in both languages and you can’t work in the civil service unless you are bilingual. Its been that way for decades, and while some people still complain about it, you eventually don’t think twice about it. You mention Britain and America being behind in language studies, but I wonder if its because so many people world-wide do speak English, despite it not being their native language. It wasn’t always so. Easier access to travel and of course technology, means few of us spend our entire lives in one area. My French is abysmal compared to what it once was. That’s the thing with languages; you must use them on a regular basis or you forget it. I considering buying a Rosetta Stone french package and self teaching. Courses where I am in the Midlands are far too expensive when you add in travel. Good luck with your studies. I know you will be speaking like a native in no time!

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